Cybersecurity has become a significant concern for businesses across the world. Over 4.1 billion records were exposed via data breaches in the first half of 2019. According to the 2019 Global Risk Report by the World Economic Forum, data breaches, and cyber threats are some of the most serious risks that businesses around the world are facing. Hacking, malware, and phishing or social engineering are the most common cybersecurity threats at the moment.
All businesses, large and small, have vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can take advantage of. However, young start-ups and other small businesses are more vulnerable to cyberattacks than their larger established counterparts. Large corporations are increasingly dedicating more resources to cybersecurity. Start-ups and other small businesses lack the financial muscle to do the same and as a result, they automatically become an easy target for cyberattacks.
Some of the most common cybersecurity risks facing start-ups include:
- Data Breaches. Any incident that exposes sensitive information can be described as a data breach. Data breaches may involve the loss or theft of passwords, email, social security numbers, or credit card information. A data breach can be accidental or intentional and carries serious legal ramifications either way.
- Ransomware. Hackers can use malware to encrypt your start-up’s mission-critical data and hold it hostage until you meet their financial demands. Ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly common these days. Forbes predicts a 300% increase in ransomware attacks in 2020, mostly targeting small businesses.
- Phishing. In a phishing attack, hackers attempt to gather personal information using deceptive emails and websites. Employees in smaller start-ups and small businesses have a higher likelihood of being targeted with phishing attacks and email malware compared to their counterparts in larger organizations.
Cyber Security Tips for Small Businesses
Data breaches and cyberattacks have damaging, lasting repercussions for young start-ups. Financially, a start-up will incur an average of $200.000 in losses after a data breach. This financial loss stems from downtime, sustained system outage, ransoms, and potential lawsuits. According to the US National Cyber Security Alliance, more than half of small businesses will go under, six months after a cyberattack. Here some steps you can take to reduce the risk of an attack.
- Risk assessment. Businesses have many vulnerabilities that owners are not aware of. Risk assessment is a process that can help you know where your start-up is weakest. Being aware of your weak points helps you defend against the wide range of cyber threats. You can hire an external consultant to carry out the risk assessment.
- VPN. Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the most important tools for online security. Some people install it on their device to encrypt all their online traffic. Alternatively, you can install a VPN router, which protects all devices connected to your office’s network. It is effective in protecting your sensitive data of your company and your clients. Many large organizations out there use it to prevent data leaks, and you can do the same for your start-up.
- Backup. Backup provides your business with a way to restore lost or destroyed data after a cyberattack. Every business needs a good backup strategy, it’s essential for cybersecurity. Having a reliable backup strategy allows your start-up to quickly restore data and get back to business after a cyberattack or data breach.
- IT services. Between sales, day-to-day operations, and countless priorities, most start-up entrepreneurs don’t have the time to optimize their business for cybersecurity. Hiring a company that specializes in IT security to handle your start-up’s IT security gives you a convenient and reliable way to protect your data.
- Employee training. Educating your employees on the wide range of cyberthreats out there is essential. Social engineering attacks such as phishing are directed at the employees’ lack of awareness. Having untrained employees who are unaware of the various threats out there makes your start-up more vulnerable.
Incidents of cyberattacks and data breaches are growing by the day. While businesses of all sizes have vulnerabilities that cybercriminals could exploit, start-ups and SMBs are more vulnerable. Malware, phishing, and data breaches are some of the most common cybersecurity threats facing start-ups. Taking the aforementioned precaution measures mitigates the risk of an attack significantly.