Home Businesses 7 Cyber Threats That Target Small Business

7 Cyber Threats That Target Small Business

by Emma Wilson

Small business owners too often think that they are immune to cyberattacks. After all, it’s the international conglomerates that make the news when their databases are compromised, not the mom-and-pop insurance agency down the street.  

However, hackers are actively targeting small businesses because they typically have far less sophisticated digital protection in place. You don’t want to make the mistake of thinking that it can’t happen to you. Instead, be proactive and take action. You can begin by understanding seven types of cyber threats that digitally steal and vandalize small businesses just like yours.

1. Easy Passwords 

Each year there’s a list published of the year’s worst passwords. Perennial winners (actually, losers) include such clunkers as “password” and “1234567.”  

Routinely, employees ignore the counsel not to use passwords that include personal data that are readily available such as birthdates, graduation dates, wedding dates, names of family members, names of pets, street addresses, and telephone numbers.  

Employees also make the mistake of using the same password for multiple accounts. Hackers know that if they can crack your password for your social media account, they can probably use that same password for your sensitive business accounts. 

More and more companies are now employing password management systems that enforce the use of safer passwords and can even eliminate the need for employers to remember and reenter their passwords each day.

2. Phishing 

Daily small businesses receive emails from what appears to be legitimate wholesalers, retailers, insurance companies, legal offices, and almost anything else imaginable. The emails are carefully designed to imitate the look and style of actual companies. They can even appear to be emails from your own company. 

GoDaddy controversially emailed its employees a phishing test. The phony email had the overall look of a legitimate GoDaddy communication, but its email address was bogus. Company executives wanted to see how many of its employees would take the bait. According to the company, around 500 of its employees flunked the test. 

Phishing messages urge you to click, link, or answer a few questions. In the case of GoDaddy, the email enticed employees to click on a link and submit a few details to qualify for a $650 holiday bonus.

3. Malicious Code 

Hackers have little difficulty creating new computer code capable of stealing and destroying your data. Their real challenge is getting their code onto your computer network. 

Sometimes hackers will build websites for the express purpose of infecting computers. The websites will typically offer free downloads of apps, games, movies, television shows, music, or pornography. The malicious code travels along with the download, nestled deep within the computer code. 

The virus can either immediately spring to life and begin its mission, or sit idle until triggered later. By the time the company discovers the infection, it has likely spread through the network, infecting both employee workstations and servers.

4. Ransomware 

In July 2020, ransomware crippled Garmin, the company known for its GPS and fitness-related equipment. The malicious code shut down the company’s call center, stopped its email, and took its cloud platform offline. Airline flights relying on Garmin’s equipment and navigation service were canceled. 

Hackers cleverly encrypt the data on your computers so that only they have access to it. Imagine burglars locking your valuables in a new safe. However, it’s safe for which only they have the combination. 

The hackers hold your data for ransom, hoping that you will be willing to pay a sum of money to regain your data and save your company. Some companies have no choice due to the critical nature of their records. For example, ransomware puts doctors and lawyers in an incredibly uncomfortable position.

5. Disgruntled or Reckless Employees 

Don’t forget to look within your organization when accessing potential cyber threats. An employee upset over a failed promotion could do just as much damage as a typical hacker. 

Often when employees are demoted, suspended, or fired, the administration fails to alert the IT team quickly. The time-lapse allows angry and upset but computer-savvy individuals to reap digital revenge while still having access to sensitive areas of the company’s network. 

However, sometimes the damage is done, not by vengeful employees but by careless ones. If even one employee has access to files that they don’t need, you’re asking for trouble.

6. Attacks Through Third Parties 

Few businesses operate without meaningful digital interaction with other companies. For example, you might use a shipping firm, a payment processor, and an email marketing service. If any of your business partners suffer malware attacks, hackers might be able to use your digital interface with those partners to attack you.  

The situation is similar to an old-fashioned heist. Instead of directly targeting a jewelry store or bank, thieves might obtain access to an adjoining business and then tunnel their way to their real target.

7. Flaws in Existing Software 

Do you immediately install security patches when they’re released by the various software manufacturers whose products you use? If not, you’re leaving the front door open for burglars.  

Businesses should never ignore security patches. Sometimes software firms release them as the direct result of a hack that exposed a flaw in their code. In other words, by ignoring the patch, you’re exposing your company to a known threat. 

You should install security patches quickly, even if the software firm found the flaw before a known hack occurred. Once the company releases the patch, hackers who didn’t know about the flaw become well aware of it. They will race to find companies that are slow to make the upgrade. 

Don’t Let Cyber Threats Ruin Your Business 

Don’t make it easy for hackers to damage your business. Take immediate steps to protect what you’ve worked so hard to build. Make cyber threats a priority. 

The first thing you can do to make your business safer is to begin using a dependable password management system for secure, reliable logins. If you’re new to password management systems, try our free 14-day trial.