The cyber world is a dangerous place, especially for businesses, and it seems as if newer and more sophisticated cybersecurity threats are emerging every day. If you want to avoid falling victim to these growing threats, you need to make sure you stay informed about all the latest tactics and methods these attackers are using to target businesses.
And the unfortunate reality is that small businesses are often a bigger target. Although they don’t turn over as many dollars as larger corporations, small businesses are easier. They don’t have the same security infrastructure that would be in place to protect a big business.
The other reason cybersecurity threats are an increasing problem to small businesses is that more and more people are working remotely, either because of the pandemic or because of the changing nature of the world. When you’re working on a personal network, using a personal internet connection, you could be opening yourself up to malicious parties that wouldn’t be able to reach you via a business connection.
Consider these numbers: Cyberattacks are up 238% globally, and about 33% of those cyberattacks are targeted specifically at small businesses. More than 60% of small businesses have suffered a cyberattack so detrimental that it rendered them temporarily unable to operate, and the average data breach costs a company about $108,000.
Here’s what you should know about some of the most common cybersecurity threats that are out there and how you can keep yourself safe from them:
Viruses are probably the first thing you think of when you hear references to cybersecurity threats. These computer programs replicate and spread from one computer to another through methods like email attachments or faulty downloads. Fortunately, these are fairly easy to avoid as long as you are careful. Don’t open any attachments you aren’t expecting to receive or that come to you from an untrusted source. Similarly, don’t click on any links that you can’t trace where they came from. If you find out that an otherwise trustworthy source (such as a client or an offsite colleague) was compromised, you should temporarily consider any attachments or links from them to be risky.
This is when you get an email that’s pretending to be somebody they aren’t, and they’re asking for information that you shouldn’t provide to anyone other than a reliable, trustworthy source (in this case, the person or agency they are pretending to be). For example, they might claim to be the IRS, your bank, a credit card company, or somebody else who would have reason to get your personal information or payment information. Always check email addresses and email signatures/headers with scrutiny. You might notice that these emails are not coming from an accurate source. (After all, it’s safe to assume the IRS doesn’t have an @aol.com email address.) If you get a spoof email, don’t engage—just delete it.
Online Shopping Scams
We all think we’re too savvy to fall for an online shopping scam, but unfortunately, these are getting more sophisticated and more convincing. The most obvious way to avoid getting scammed is not to shop on any platform that seems suspicious or makes you feel slightly uncomfortable. Remember to always check the web address to make sure you’re shopping at the right website (some scammers will make convincing imposter sites with a web address that is only a letter or two off). Always use a credit card or a gift card to pay for a purchase instead of a debit card, because if you do get scammed, you can simply refute the purchase. Finally, make sure you’re doing your shopping on a secure connection on a private computer (work or personal) and using a strong password for your shopping account.
Mobile Device Hacks
Unfortunately, your computer isn’t the only device you have to worry about—you can also get scammed via your smartphone. To avoid compromising the cybersecurity of your phone, avoid responding to any unsolicited emails or text messages from unknown sources, and never click on any links via social media if you don’t know where those links are taking you. Finally, download apps exclusively through an official app store, never from an outside website.
Not all cybersecurity threats are happening in the digital realm. Sometimes you can have personal information stolen from you via a personal interaction; that personal information is then used to compromise your security online. Make sure you don’t leave your passwords or other account information out where strangers or unsafe people can access it, and if you need to provide information such as username and password to somebody, ask for proof of their identity before you give it to them. Make sure your devices all have locks with passwords so that strangers can get onto your computer or smartphone (especially in cases where these decisions might be stolen). And trust your instincts—if a person you meet in real life seems suspicious, be cautious around them.