When the headlines focus on breaches of large enterprises like the Optus breach, it's easy for smaller businesses to think they're not a target for hackers. Surely, they're not worth the time or effort?
Unfortunately, when it comes to cyber security, size doesn't matter.
Assuming you're not a target leads to lax security practices in many SMBs who lack the knowledge or expertise to put simple security steps in place. Few small businesses prioritise cybersecurity, and hackers know it. According to Verizon, the number of smaller businesses being hit has climbed steadily in the last few years – 46% of cyber breaches in 2021 impacted businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees.
Cyber security doesn't need to be difficult
Securing any business doesn't need to be complex or come with a hefty price tag. Here are seven simple tips to help the smaller business secure their systems, people and data.
1 — Install anti-virus software everywhere
Every organisation has anti-virus on their systems and devices, right? Unfortunately, business systems such as web servers get overlooked all too often. It's important for SMBs to consider all entry points into their network and have anti-virus deployed on every server, as well as on employees' personal devices.
Hackers will find weak entry points to install malware, and anti-virus software can serve as a good last-resort backstop, but it's not a silver bullet. Through continuous monitoring and penetration testing you can identify weaknesses and vulnerabilities before hackers do, because it's easier to stop a burglar at the front door than once they're in your home.
2 — Continuously monitor your perimeter
Your perimeter is exposed to remote attacks because it's available 24/7. Hackers constantly scan the internet looking for weaknesses, so you should scan your own perimeter too. The longer a vulnerability goes unfixed, the more likely an attack is to occur. With tools like Autosploit and Shodan readily available, it's easier than ever for attackers to discover internet facing weaknesses and exploit them.
Even organisations that cannot afford a full-time, in-house security specialist can use online services like Intruder to run vulnerability scans to uncover weaknesses.
Intruder is a powerful vulnerability scanner that provides a continuous security review of your systems. With over 11,000 security checks, Intruder makes enterprise-grade scanning easy and accessible to SMBs.
Intruder will promptly identify high-impact flaws, changes in the attack surface, and rapidly scan your infrastructure for emerging threats.
3 — Minimise your attack surface
Your attack surface is made up of all the systems and services exposed to the internet. The larger the attack surface, the bigger the risk. This means exposed services like Microsoft Exchange for email, or content management systems like Wordpress can be vulnerable to brute-forcing or credential-stuffing, and new vulnerabilities are discovered almost daily in such software systems. By removing public access to sensitive systems and interfaces which don't need to be accessible to the public, and ensuring 2FA is enabled where they do, you can limit your exposure and greatly reduce risk.
A simple first step in reducing your attack surface is by using a secure virtual private network (VPN). By using a VPN, you can avoid exposing sensitive systems directly to the internet whilst maintaining their availability to employees working remotely. When it comes to risk, prevention is better than cure – don't expose anything to the internet unless it's absolutely necessary!
4 — Keep software up to date
New vulnerabilities are discovered daily in all kinds of software, from web browsers to business applications. Just one unpatched weakness could lead to full compromise of a system and a breach of customer data; as TalkTalk discovered when 150,000 of its private data records were stolen.
According to a Cyber Security Breaches Survey, businesses that hold electronic personal data of their customers are more likely than average to have had breaches. Patch management is an essential component of good cyber hygiene, and there are tools and services to help you check your software for any missing security patches.
5 — Back up your data
Ransomware is on the increase. In 2021, 37% of businesses and organisations were hit by ransomware according to research by Sophos. Ransomware encrypts any data it can access, rendering it unusable, and can't be reversed without a key to decrypt the data.
Data loss is a key risk to any business either through malicious intent or a technical mishap such as hard disk failure, so backing up data is always recommended. If you back up your data, you can counter attackers by recovering your data without needing to pay the ransom, as systems affected by ransomware can be wiped and restored from an unaffected backup without the attacker's key.
6 — Keep your staff security aware
Cyber attackers often rely on human error, so it's vital that staff are trained in cyber hygiene so they recognise risks and respond appropriately. The Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2022 revealed that the most common types of breaches were staff receiving fraudulent emails or phishing attacks (73%), followed by people impersonating the organisation in emails or online (27%), viruses, spyware and malware (12%), and ransomware (4%).
Increasing awareness of the benefits of using complex passwords and training staff to spot common attacks such as phishing emails and malicious links, will ensure your people are a strength rather than a vulnerability.
7 — Protect yourself relative to your risk
Cyber security measures should always be appropriate to the organisation. For example, a small business which handles banking transactions or has access to sensitive information such as healthcare data should employ far more stringent security processes and practices than a pet shop.
That's not to say a pet shop doesn't have a duty to protect customer data, but it's less likely to be a target. Hackers are motivated by money, so the bigger the prize the more time and effort will be invested to achieve their gains. By identifying your threats and vulnerabilities with a tool like Intruder, you can take appropriate steps to mitigate and prioritize which risks need to be addressed and in which order.
It's time to raise your cyber security game
Attacks on large companies dominate the news, which feeds the perception that SMBs are safe, when the opposite is true. Attacks are increasingly automated, so SMBs are just as vulnerable targets as larger enterprises, more so if they don't have adequate security processes in place. And hackers will always follow the path of least resistance. Fortunately, that's the part Intruder made easy…
Intruder is a cyber security company that helps organisations reduce their attack surface by providing continuous vulnerability scanning and penetration testing services. Intruder's powerful scanner is designed to promptly identify high-impact flaws, changes in the attack surface, and rapidly scan the infrastructure for emerging threats. Running thousands of checks, which include identifying misconfigurations, missing patches, and web layer issues, Intruder makes enterprise-grade vulnerability scanning easy and accessible to everyone. Intruder's high-quality reports are perfect to pass on to prospective customers or comply with security regulations, such as ISO 27001 and SOC 2.
Intruder offers a 14-day free trial of its vulnerability assessment platform. Visit their website today to take it for a spin!