When it comes to cyber theft, a credit card is a credit card is a credit card. It doesn’t matter if those numbers were lifted from a big-box store or a mom-and-pop shop, according to Andrew Bagrin, a small business digital security specialist – the information is still valuable and worth stealing. The only difference is that it’s easier to hack into a small business. (Related reading: “The OTHER Way Data Breaches Hurt Small Businesses.”)
In his interview with Small Business Computing, Bagrin confirms that small businesses are more likely to experience a data breach than their larger commercial counterparts because big corporations can afford fancy IT solutions and a staff to manage them.
Small-business owners, already tiptoeing a financial tightrope, simply don’t have the resources to amplify their data security. And friends, the numbers paint a grim picture. According to Bagrin…
- 70 percent of breaches target small businesses.
- $300,000 is the average amount a small business loses when its data is leaked.
But here’s the silver lining in all the doom and gloom of data breaches: 90 percent of them can be avoided if you know what to expect and take the right precautions.
When You’re a Cyber Crook, the World Is Your Oyster
When we talk about cyber criminals and data breaches, it’s easy to disassociate. A cloaked villain storms a digital fortress by nightfall, filling his dollar-sign emblazoned sack with codes and customer data. Maniacal laughter fills the air, and the small-business owner shakes her fist at the trail of dust the nefarious figure leaves in his wake.
It’s the stuff of legends, and surely it won’t happen to you. (Right?)
But in reality, data breaches are crimes of opportunity. A door can easily be opened, so the hacker walks through it. Bagrin outlines the techniques hackers use to infiltrate small businesses, which include…
- Targeting outdated firewalls. An old-school firewall is easier to work around if you’re a sophisticated scam artist. These outdated safety measures don’t have the capacity to detect and block suspect traffic.
- Sidestepping anti-virus software. Today’s successful attacks involve a lot of patience. The hacker may use malicious links on Facebook to sneakily drop into a target’s system. Because these new forms of malware don’t operate the same way as the old guard, anti-virus software can’t detect it. The malware can quietly collect data and send it along. (To learn more about how malware works, read, “Data Security: When Malware Training Could Save You Thousands.”)
- Nosing out unsecure wireless connections. Does your Wi-Fi have an encrypted password? If not, you’re leaving your network exposed to suspicious traffic.
Remember, too, that some industries are simply more prone to data breaches. For example, complete health records are worth a considerable sum on the black market, which is why healthcare businesses may be targeted more often. It doesn’t help that health businesses are among the most lax when it comes to data security protocol, either. To learn more, check out the post, “Allied Health Professionals: Why Your Data Isn't Safe.”
How to Keep Cyber Scammers at Bay
Now that you understand how the hackers can get in, let’s learn how to keep them out.
- Step up your password game. Encrypt, encrypt, and encrypt some more. All your passwords – on your Wi-Fi connection, online accounts, and your actual computer – should be encrypted. Think of this as your way of “locking” the door to your network and the valuable information housed on your devices.
- Automate your security. Because most breaches today look like usual traffic, it can be hard for older software to catch. Bagrin suggests finding technology that can detect and prevent the transfer of sensitive data before it lands in the wrong hands.
- Get a failsafe in place. If your sensitive information is leaked, you could be on the hook for an avalanche of expenses. For instance, depending on laws in your state, you may have to pay to notify all the affected parties about the breach. If you don’t do this in a timely fashion, you could be fined by your state. (For more on that, read, “Small Business Faces $3,000 Fine for Data Breach.”) Then you’d likely have to hire a security consultant to find and repair the damage. A Cyber Liability Insurance policy can help your business finance the fallout following a cyber attack.
To get free Cyber Liability Insurance quotes for your small business, submit an online insurance application today.