Don’t Let Data Breaches Bring Down Your Business

Written by Chuck Rutenberg

July 15, 2021

Data breaches are a growing threat, yet many SMBs don’t know how to prevent them or what they should do if one occurs. Moreover, most cyber attacks we read or hear about in the news are against larger corporations where millions of customers are affected, and the damages can be astronomical. Over 40 percent of cyber attacks, though, are aimed at SMBs. And of those attacked, 60 percent go out of business within six months.

Hackers relentlessly target SMBs who, sadly, are woefully unprepared to defend themselves and handle the aftermath of an attack. Slow breach response, regulations and fines, and stock price impacts cost smaller businesses anywhere from $80,000 to over $1 million annually.

SMBs must start taking cyber threats more seriously. Small and medium businesses are the biggest engine driving the U.S. economy, and they’re at risk like never before. Fortunately, security tools and strategies your organization can adopt, such as multi-factor authentication and encryption, can turn these serious vulnerabilities into opportunities.

Data breaches are costly to recover from, so your business must learn and practice proactive, preventative techniques to stop them in their tracks.

What Are Data Breaches, and is Your SMB at Risk?

As technologies improve and become more integrated into life and work, vast amounts of personal and business-related data have moved to the digital realm. As a result, SMBs are extremely attractive to cyber criminals, as they can access huge quantities of personally identifiable information they then use to hack financial accounts, compromise identities, and more.

Four of the most common attacks are:

  1. System vulnerability exploits. Out-of-date software, particularly security software like firewalls, creates “holes” in your system that allow attackers to install malware onto a computer and steal data.
  2. Weak passwords. They’re easy for hackers to guess, and though experts recommend businesses use unique, complex passwords, many do not.
  3. Drive-by downloads. If an employee visits a compromised web page, what’s known as a drive-by download can take advantage of any outdated or unsecured browser, application, or operating system.
  4. Targeted malware attacks. Spam and phishing email tactics are still incredibly successful cyber attacks. The FBI estimates that in 2020, at least 22% of data breaches involved phishing, a tactic bad actors employ to trick users into revealing their personal credentials.

Is your business at risk of a cyber attack? It’s safe to say every business is vulnerable to data breaches. Today, even smaller companies have remote workers and use cloud services and mobile devices for work. Since most SMBs have access to or store valuable customer information, they will always be an attractive target. Your best bet is to assume you will be a target and then incorporate digital strategies and tactics that keep you, your customers,you’re your employees safe.

How to Protect Your Business From a Data Breach

Many SMBs says they’re well-aware of the threat data breaches pose but cite three obstacles to becoming digitally ready:

  1. Significant resource constraints
  2. A lack of technical expertise
  3. The cybersecurity world’s rapid change of pace

They report feeling overwhelmed, helpless, or ill-prepared to defend themselves against the enormous range of cyber threats they face.

Experts suggest taking the following steps to protect your business:

  • Educate employees on how to practice better online security
  • Update security procedures frequently
  • Introduce remote monitoring
  • Ensure data backups and recovery options are available
  • Increase your physical data security efforts
  • Keep data encrypted
  • Employ VPNs

Good advice, yet many SMBs lack the internal resources to put these measures in place. Working with an IT service provider can eliminate the need to hire additional staff and help you reduce the costs associated with security.

What to Do if a Data Breach Has Occurred

So, what do you do if a data breach has already occurred at your business? Moving quickly to secure your systems and fix vulnerabilities is a top priority to stop additional data loss and secure physical areas potentially related to the attack. Vulnerabilities must be fixed, law enforcement should be notified, and all affected parties must be informed if their personal data has been compromised. You may also need to prepare for post-breach cleanup and damage control.

Maintaining your company’s security is a complicated task. Outsourcing IT services to a provider with specific industry knowledge and expertise, particularly with respect to compliance and regulatory issues, can help reduce the chances of a data breach at your business. Most of all, an IT service provider can assist with your digital transformation plans, smoothing the road to complete digital readiness.

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