Cyber attacks have surged this year with over 12,000 incidents reported between January and May 2022 alone. Small to Medium-sized Businesses (“SMEs”) are especially vulnerable to these growingly sophisticated attacks as they typically lack the resources to maintain a robust cyber security posture. Cyber attackers are aware of this and focus on targeting particularly vulnerable companies including family-owned and services-oriented businesses. Over 84% of SMEs faced cyber incidents in the years preceding 2019 and 40% of those organizations saw their client data compromised. (Source: Increasing cyber-attacks & threats on SMEs)
Types of Cyber Threats against SMEs
Cyber attackers can target SMEs using a number of proven strategies. Some of these strategies have become increasingly complex as software security providers evolve and companies become more aware. Still, it may be difficult to spot and prevent cyber attacks as they are always changing. Some key methods of attack are outlined here:
- Ransomware - Ransomware is software that can take control of a computer system or network by exploiting errors or vulnerabilities in the software code. Ransomware is designed to spread from system to system across a network, gaining root level control and encrypting all essential data on the network. Cybercriminals can then withhold the encryption key and threaten to publish sensitive data unless a ransom is paid.
- Bot Malware - Bot malware is similar in that it exploits vulnerabilities but more deadly in that it can be designed to completely wipe out a network or drive with little concern for user recovery or ransom negotiations.
- Social engineering - Social engineering occurs when the attacker relies on human interaction to gain access to an organization’s sensitive information or infrastructure with the intention of doing harm from within. The attacker may appear friendly or unassuming, typically relying on normal social convention and common courtesy to gain the trust and bend the will of their victim. For example, an attacker might pose as a security maintenance professional or janitor, using their credentials to access a restricted server room where they can then launch an actual cyber attack or data retrieval operation.
How to Prevent Cyber Attack as an SME
Given the environment today, it is impossible to fully mitigate the threat of a cyber attack with certainty but there are several steps SMEs can take to manage the risk.
- Proper Risk Management and Assessment - SMEs should understand what data is most sensitive in their organization and develop procedures for its handling and use.
- Property Authorization and Hierarchy - SMEs should clearly define roles in their organization and confine access to key systems accordingly. This may involve assigning “permissions” to different people at the organization and designating certain employees as “data” managers in their respective sections of the internal network.
- Culture of Awareness - SMEs must promote a culture of vigilance around cyber security threats, starting with mandatory threat identification and response training. This can be done either via online courses, simulated attacks, in-person speaking engagements, or routine announcements and newsletters.
- Routine Updates and Maintenance - Organizations should routinely keep their software and hardware infrastructure up to date with the latest patches and enhancements. These updates often fix security software vulnerabilities or offer additional security enhancements.
- Routine Backups - All systems in an organization should have both online and local backups stored in case of emergency. In the event of a successful cyber security attack, backups allow organizations to revert their systems to a period of time when the software or network was not compromised. This can be a powerful tool in the fight against encryption and ransomware attacks.
- Endpoint Protection - This aspect of cyber defense involves securing and protecting the end computer systems that are used by employees. Robust security infrastructure on the “end points” limits the chance that malicious code or programming can gain entry to the organization’s larger network or infrastructure.
- Incident Management Response - When a cyber attack does occur, there should be a planned response outlining who to contact first, where to conduct business offline, and how customers or other intermediaries should be informed.
These tips are especially important as organizations grapple with work-from-home protocols and the after effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which moved a number of standard products and services fully online.
As an SME Owner
One of the fastest ways to mitigate the risk of a cyber attack is to purchase a cyber insurance policy. Cyber insurance protects SMEs from the financial losses related to a cyber-attack and business owners can use GetCyber to find cyber insurance coverage and obtain high-quality, quick cyber quotes. GetCyber offers several benefits over traditional cyber insurance brokerages, including the ability to:
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As a business owner, it is up to you to assess the amount of acceptable risk for your firm. While this is no easy task, GetCyber is here to help. Get a quote today by visiting us at www.getcyber.com