What Small Businesses Can Do to Thwart the Top 5 Cybersecurity Threats

It’s a common misconception that large corporations are the only ones at risk for cyberattacks. People believe that businesses too small should not worry about cybersecurity. Unfortunately, this is not the case. As cyberattacks are now automated, it’s easier for cyber terrorists to target thousands of businesses at once.

Small businesses often have less technical knowledge when it comes to these threats. They are likely to have fewer resources to defend themselves, making hackers target small businesses more than prominent organizations.

This article will help you understand the top five cybersecurity issues and how you can prevent them.

What is cybersecurity, and how does it help your business?

Cybersecurity includes processes, practices and tools that protect your network or database from cyberattacks.

A well-established cybersecurity system can protect your small business by providing internet protection and ensure that your business won’t be at risk from any potential cyberattack such as Phishing, adware or ransomware.

Ideally, the perfect cybersecurity measure can be broken down into several sections: application, information, network, cloud and operational security. In addition, your solution can include an anti-virus, online content filtration, firewall and more.

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Top cybersecurity issues for small businesses

For these reasons, you need to be aware of these threats for small businesses and if your cybersecurity policy stops them.

1.   Insider threats

It is not common knowledge that insider threat is one of the top cybersecurity threats faced by small businesses. More often, a company fully trusts its employees and is confident they will not cause a cybersecurity breach.

According to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, 44% of small businesses’ cyber threats are caused by internal actors. Compared to large corporations (36% internal actors), small businesses are at greater peril, as employees have more access to the company’s internal tech infrastructure.

Ways to prevent: To prevent insider threats, small businesses need to build a strong culture of security awareness and implement cyber insurance within their company. Equipping your employees with the right tools and knowledge can help employees spot any early attacks or attempts in break into your company’s database.

In addition, small businesses can also minimize employees’ privileges and access to the company’s network. You can select a few trusted employees to handle the inner parts of the network. If you manage remote employees, you can also install time-tracking tools to monitor your employees’ work.

2.   Malware attacks

Malware, or malicious software, is the second top cybersecurity threat to small businesses. Usually, malware is released into someone’s computer by clicking a link from an unknown source and downloading and opening the file. It can also come in the form of a pop-up or email spam.

Once malware is released to your computer, the hacker can access your personal or company password, banking details and other files. It can also destroy the computer by damaging or deleting files and programs on your computer through agents such as adware, worms, spyware and other viruses. Moreover, it can hack devices by slowing them down and eventually stopping them from working. According to Deloitte’s Study on Impact of COVID-19 on Cybersecurity, in 2020, of companies reporting malware attacks, 35% of these attacks were new malware and methods. These attacks increased as more employees worked from home.

Ways to prevent: Cyberattacks on small businesses can be prevented by creating and placing a solid technological defense. Establishing central admin control on all devices and networks can ensure that all security is updated and avoid malware downloading.

Small businesses can also install web security to stop users from visiting malicious websites and downloading software or media.

3.   Phishing attacks

Wondering what the most common threat to information security is in an organization? Phishing. Phishing is one of the top cybersecurity threats. It is a hacking scheme used to trick people into opening harmful content in emails or messages. Usually, the attacker sends what looks like a regular email with legitimate-looking logos, attachments and links. It will then ask the receiver to click the link or download files. While phishing targets any users, here are some other types of phishing you should learn more about:

  • Whale phishing is a form of email phishing that targets company executives and steals essential business information.
  • Spear-phishing sends emails to specific personalities of a business to steal information.
  • Smishing sends SMS messages to click malicious links
  • Vishing is usually done through phone calls or voice messages with the hacker acting as a legitimate company to get information.
  • Search engine phishing is where hackers make fake online websites to rob customer information when files are opened.

Moreover, based on the study conducted by Cisco on 2021 Cyber Security Threat Trends, 86% of organizations had at least one user open phishing sites. Therefore, there’s a big chance that an employee would click a phishing email and risk the whole business.

Ways to prevent: Keep your employees informed about the different phishing techniques. You can conduct IT security awareness training and simulate phishing scenarios for all employees. Advise them on the right way to deal with phishing. You can also try to install firewalls and anti-phishing toolbars on everyone’s web browser to scan and block any potential malicious website.

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4.   Ransomware

Ransomware is the third biggest cybersecurity threat faced by all businesses. It is a typical cyberattack that affects thousands of companies every year. This cyberattack is a type of malware that steals and encrypts company data to not be accessed or used. The attacker then will ask the company to pay a ransom for them to unlock it. This financial risk could cripple a small business.

It is considered the top cybersecurity threat by small businesses. According to the 2020 Global State of the Channel Ransomware Report of Datto, ransomware is the No. 1 malware threat to small and medium businesses (SMBs). In addition, attackers request ransom up to $5,600 per incident. SMBs are more likely to pay this ransom as their data are usually not backed up. They need this information to operate. Likewise, the most targeted industry of ransomware is health care.

Ways to prevent: To prevent these attacks, businesses need to build a robust endpoint security system. This will secure all entry points of devices and prevent exploitations from any malicious actors and malware. Most modern endpoint security solutions are designed to quickly detect, analyze and block malicious files that may start the attack.

Likewise, businesses should consider building an effective cloud database to back up all data in a cloud that can be extracted in case of any data loss. It is also a great addition to building an effective business continuity plan. There are various available cloud services online that are cheap and efficient for small businesses.

Implementing a data backup is a great plan in the event of a ransomware attack. You can recover your data quickly without having to pay any ransom. This is an excellent step toward cyber resiliency.

5.   Weak passwords

Many businesses use multiple services and platforms that require different accounts. These platforms often contain sensitive data, trade secrets and financial information. As such, a weak or easily guessed password is another top cybersecurity threat.

Employees often compromise their business accounts when they enter login credentials unknowingly on fake or phishing websites. Moreover, small businesses are often at risk due to simply not knowing this can cause damage.

According to Google, 24% of Americans use a generic password like “QWERTY” or “123456.” Common username and password combinations can also leave your business accounts vulnerable to hacking. Likewise, reusing passwords on different accounts and platforms can make it easier for hackers to access all accounts, leaving your business at risk.

Ways to prevent: Small companies need to orient people in creating passwords specifically for their company accounts. It is a great idea to create a guideline to choosing passwords for maximum security.

They can also use Business Password Management Technologies or Tools to manage usernames and passwords for all their accounts. These tools will also suggest if your password is strong enough or can easily be cracked.

Likewise, when distributing accounts, they can also use a password generator to create passwords that are impossible to crack by any attackers. Businesses should also invest in and implement multi-factor authentication technologies. They can ensure that all accounts will not be accessed using only passwords. Some multi-factor authentication requires a onetime password (OTP), multiple verification steps and more to prevent hackers from accessing business accounts.

Tips to avoid cybersecurity threats

Having a robust cybersecurity solution is essential to prevent small business cybersecurity threats. Prevention is critical rather than solving issues.

  1. Educate your managers and employees.

As mentioned earlier, employees are the most common actor of cyberattacks. Sadly, most employees endanger their business IT infrastructure unknowingly due to ignorance or misinformation. A lot of older employees fall victim to fraudulent scams or email impersonation.

Therefore, IT employee awareness is vital to prevent data breaches or cyberattacks. Teach your employees to:

  • Detect fake or fraudulent emails by checking the email address.
  • Not immediately click links or download files attached to the email.
  • Be updated on the latest fraudulent scams and phishing techniques.
  1. Keep your software and system up to date.

Like the latest apps, malware is also often updated to keep up with the technology. Software companies also update their applications to fight and stop this cyberattack from accessing your accounts.

Companies need to keep their software or system updated to prevent hackers from exploiting weak spots and accessing your networks. Companies can invest in the patch management system to keep all software and apps updated.

  1. Ensure endpoint protection.

Perhaps the most essential practice in securing your company’s IT system is by establishing Endpoint Security Solutions. It connects and protects networks’ entry points or endpoints of users’ devices such as desktops, laptops and mobiles from being exploited or hacked by malicious actors.

This is great for companies with devices connected to the company’s network or database that can give access to security threats. Endpoint protection software is a critical last line of defense for your database or network.

  1. Install a firewall.

A firewall is the first line of defense against cyberattacks. It examines and filters all information or files coming through your internet connection to your devices. Having an effective firewall system can help your business’ data detect and defend from any malicious actor or program. It will block any attacks on your network or system from gaining access before it can do any damage.

  1. Back up your data.

Even if all prevention fails, having a backup database to rely on is the best reinforcement you can have to fight cyberattacks. Having backups of all files helps businesses continuously operate and minimize downtime.

There are many backup software or tools available like cloud servers, DAS, NAS and more.


As a small business, it can be challenging to fight cybersecurity threats. You might not know where to begin or what to use to protect your business. There is lots of information that you need to learn and process. However, cybersecurity is really essential, considering how the world is now relying more on technology, so find the best solution to help keep your company and customers ‘ information safe.

Originally published Oct. 29, 2021.

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