5 Greatest Cyber Security Threats Small Businesses Face and Ways to Combat

Small Businesses face equal cybersecurity threats as large enterprises. A common myth for small businesses is the idea of security being so obscure that your business is considered too small a target. However, this is not the case.

Attackers can target thousands of small businesses at once as they can increasingly automate attacks. Small businesses are often more targeted as they have less awareness of threats, less time and resources to invest in cybersecurity, and less stringent technological defenses.

However, they are no less lucrative targets at the same time. The smallest of businesses can sometimes have access to large quantities of customer data, deal with huge sums of money, that under GDPR are all obliged to be protected. Small businesses sometimes collaborate with larger companies and hence hackers can utilize them to infiltrate the data of the larger companies.

Small businesses also have much to lose by being hit with a decimating cyber-attack. Based on a recent study, businesses lose $2.5 million with less than 500 employees per attack. It is quite devastating for small businesses to lose this amount of money via cyber breaches. Also, there is the reputational damage that follows through from being damaged by cyber-attacks.

1) Ransomware

One of the most common cyber-attacks damaging thousands of businesses yearly, Ransomware has recently increased as they are significantly the most lucrative forms of attacks. It involves the encryption of company data so that it can’t be accessed or used and then blackmailing the company to pay a ransom to get the data unlocked again. This leaves businesses with two very difficult choices to make – either pay the ransom and lose huge sums of money or handicap their services with a loss of data.

These types of attacks can largely damage small businesses. In 2018, with an average ransom of $116,000, 71% of ransomware attacks targeted small businesses. Attackers know the fact that smaller businesses are more likely to pay a ransom because they do not back-up their data that often and even to survive they need to be up and running at the earliest. The most affected industry in such attacks is the healthcare sector because locking a patient’s medical records and appointment times can decimate a business to the point that it has no option left but to shut down unless a ransom is paid.

2) Weak Passwords

Employees using weak or easily guessed passwords is another big reason why small businesses face threats. Multiple cloud-based services that need different accounts are utilized by many small businesses. Many sensitive data and financial information are carried by these services. This data can be compromised easily if businesses use easily guessed passwords or the same passwords for multiple accounts.

3) Phishing Attacks

Phishing attacks are the most massive and widespread cyber threats in the way of small businesses. Phishing accounts for over $12 billion for their increase in amount by 65% this year and also accounts for 90% of all the cyber breaches to happen in business losses. Phishing occurs when the attacker masquerades to be a trusted contact and lures the user to click on an infected or malicious link, install a malicious file, or provide them access to confidential information like credentials or account details.

Of late the attackers have become more and more convincing in pretending to be official business contacts. As a result, phishing attacks have grown much more in recent years. Small businesses have also seen a rise in bad actors using phishing campaigns to access business email account passwords from highly professional executives and then utilizing these accounts to request payments from employees.

Something that makes phishing accounts so devastating is that they are tough to combat. Instead of targeting technological weaknesses, they utilize social methods to target humans inside a business.

Managing a strong Email Security Gateway like ‘Mimecast’ or ‘Proofpoint Essentials’ in the right place can prevent phishing emails from being transported to your employees’ inboxes. Phishing attacks can also be battled by securing your business through Post-Delivery Protection like IRONSCALES. These solutions allow the users to pinpoint phishing emails and report them to the admins so that they can delete them from all the user inboxes.

4) Malware Attacks

The second biggest threat in the way of small businesses is malware. It includes different cyber threats like Trojans and viruses. This is a malicious code created by hackers that create them to gain access to networks, data, or destroy it on the computers. Malware majorly is found on spam emails, connection with other infected machines or devices, and malicious website downloads.

These attacks are alarmingly damaging to small businesses because they can malfunction your devices that require expensive replacements and repairs to fix. These viruses can also provide access to hackers via a back door that can put the employees and customer’s data at risk. Small businesses will hire majorly those people who can use their own devices for work because it helps to save cost and time. This would, however, increase their chances of being attacked by a hacker as personal devices are more at risk to be attacked from malicious downloads than corporate devices.

5) Insider Threats

The insider threat is the final major threat that small businesses face. It is an organizational risk caused by employees’, business contractors’, former employees’ or associates’ actions. The actions caused by them could be simply through carelessness and ignorance that can cause harmful effects through greed and malice. According to a Verizon report in 2017, 25% of breaches in 2017 were the result of insider threats.


There are multiple leagues of threats facing small businesses currently. The best way to fight and protect their sensitive data and other information against these threats is to deploy a perfect stack of security tools in place, and impart Security Awareness Training to help users be aware of security threats and ways to combat them.

Mamta Sharma


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