Cyber-attacks are a growing threat for small businesses and the U.S. economy. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report, the cost of cybercrimes reached $2.7 billion in 2020 alone.
Small businesses are attractive targets because they have information that cybercriminals want, and they typically lack the security infrastructure of larger businesses.
According to a recent SBA survey, 88% of small business owners felt their business was vulnerable to a cyber-attack. Yet many businesses can’t afford professional IT solutions, have limited time to devote to cybersecurity, or they don’t know where to begin.
Start by learning about common cyber threats, understanding where your business is vulnerable, and taking steps to improve your cybersecurity.
MalwareMalware (malicious software) is an umbrella term that refers to software intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or computer network. Malware can include viruses and ransomware.
VirusesViruses are harmful programs intended to spread from computer to computer (and other connected devices). Viruses are intended to give cybercriminals access to your system.
RansomwareRansomware is a specific type of malware that infects and restricts access to a computer until a ransom is paid. Ransomware is usually delivered through phishing emails and exploits unpatched vulnerabilities in software.
PhishingPhishing is a type of cyber-attack that uses email or a malicious website to infect your machine with malware or collect your sensitive information. Phishing emails appear as though they’ve been sent from a legitimate organization or known individual. These emails often entice users to click on a link or open an attachment containing malicious code. After the code is run, your computer may become infected with malware.
Assess your business risk
Planning and assessment toolsThere’s no substitute for dedicated IT support—whether an employee or external consultant—but businesses of more limited means can still take measures to improve their cybersecurity. FCC Planning Tool The Federal Communications Commission offers a cybersecurity planning tool to help you build a strategy based on your unique business needs. Cyber Resilience Review The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Cyber Resilience Review (CRR) is a non-technical assessment to evaluate operational resilience and cybersecurity practices. You can either do the assessment yourself, or request a facilitated assessment by DHS cybersecurity professionals. Cyber Hygiene Vulnerability Scanning DHS also offers free cyber hygiene vulnerability scanning for small businesses. This service can help secure your internet-facing systems from weak configuration and known vulnerabilities. You will receive a weekly report for your action. Supply Chain Risk Management Use the Supply Chain Risk Management Toolkit to help shield your business information and communications technology from sophisticated supply chain attacks. Developed by the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA), this toolkit will help you raise awareness and reduce the impacts of supply chain risks.
Cybersecurity best practices
Train your employeesEmployees and emails are a leading cause of data breaches for small businesses because they are a direct path into your systems. Training employees on basic internet best practices can go a long way in preventing cyber-attacks. The Department of Homeland Security’s “Stop.Think.Connect” campaign offers training and other materials. Training topics to cover include:
- Spotting a phishing email
- Using good browsing practices
- Avoiding suspicious downloads
- Creating strong passwords
- Protecting sensitive customer and vendor information
- Maintaining good cyber hygiene
- 10 characters or more
- At least one uppercase letter
- At least one lowercase letter
- At least one number
- At least one special character