As a small business, you might think that you don't need to worry about computer and network security. After all, why would an attacker go after a small company when they could get a bigger payout from a huge corporation?
The reality is that small businesses are not immune from cyber attacks. If your company falls victim to one, the consequences could be disastrous. Let's look at the risks of forgoing proper security and how these attacks happen to small businesses.
How Computer Security Attacks Happen
Before we look at the risks, let's consider some of the most common ways that criminals attack business computer systems, including those of small businesses.
As we've discussed before, phishing is pretending to be a legitimate entity to steal information from someone. This can occur through phishing emails that pretend to come from financial companies, but there's a more targeted approach known as "spear phishing" as well.
With spear phishing, an attacker spends more time learning about the specifics of your company to use against you. For example, they might learn the names of executives, then create a phony request to wire funds using an email that matches your company's email signature format. This is the case with the CEO email scam that makes the rounds every so often.
Phishing relies on tricking people, so having one employee fall for a farce could compromise your entire setup. IBM's 2020 Cost Of Insider Threats report found that negligence was the cause of 63% of incidents reported, while criminal insiders accounted for just 14% and credential theft the other 23%.
Ransomware is a worrying threat that's continued to evolve over the years. If you're not familiar, ransomware is usually introduced by opening a rogue email attachment or similar. It encrypts all the files on a computer (or network) and demands payment to unlock them.
Of course, there's no guarantee that the attacker will actually give you the unlock key, and paying encourages these kinds of scams to keep happening in the future. Cisco Security reported that 53% of cyber attacks in a recent security report brought at least $500,000 in damages.
Viruses and Other Malware
Aside from ransomware, more traditional forms of malware can also wreak havoc on your computer systems. Network attacks, employee negligence, and simple mistakes can bring nasty software into your environment.
Its effects range from moderate inconveniences to huge data loss, so preventing these attacks is vital. Keeper Security's 2019 report found that 66% of SMBs polled experienced a cyber attack in the prior year, with 70% reporting employee password theft in the same time frame.
Insecure systems are much easier to hack. Poor security practices like short passwords, using the default credentials on networking equipment, and failing to physically secure important machines make it much easier for a malicious individual to hack a computer.
A BullGuard study found that one in three SMBs uses a free consumer-grade security product, while one in five don't use any security at all. These situations open the door for hacking.
The Risks of Computer Security Breaches
Say that your company didn't have any defense plans against or backup strategies for a computer attack like the above. What are the risks?
Risk of Data Loss
What would happen if your company lost critical data and didn't have any backups? Losing years of customer information, purchase records, signed documents, and other critical data could put you out of business.
Your company can't do business without this information, and having all this disappear in an instant would be devastating. Ransomware, corruption from viruses, or theft from hacking could all ruin your stored data.
Risk of Reputation Loss
Perhaps worse than losing everything above, think about how your customers would feel when they learned that you lost all this data. Not only would they think twice about doing business with you in the future, but they would likely tell their friends and colleagues to steer clear of your company as well.
A particularly nasty episode could even result in media coverage, which would be extremely embarrassing and harm your chances of receiving business down the line.
Risk of Lost Money
If you don't have a prevention and recovery plan in place for a security disaster like this, you'll have to spend a lot of money to get everything back in order again. Data recovery is extremely expensive and not always reliable.
You may have to pay damages for lost customer data, and could even be sued if you deal with protected information like health records.
Risk of Lost Time
Recovering from these kinds of breaches isn't easy. You have to assess what you lost and dedicate many hours to fixing it as best you can. Time spent trying to recover data, reaching out to affected clients, and similar is all wasted time that you aren't spending on growing your business.
This could require bringing in outside help if you don't have the personnel in-house, incurring further costs.
Smart Prevention Is So Much Better
Because going through the kind of attacks above is obviously terrible, it's much wiser to plan ahead and prevent these kinds of threats from happening. While it does cost money to put a proper threat protection and recovery plan in place, the risks above will have a far greater cost than preparing ahead of time.
It's like car insurance: if you wait to have an accident before buying insurance, not only do you have to pay out of pocket to fix the damage, but then you'll start paying for the insurance anyway. Paying for insurance ahead of time makes fixing problems much smoother.