May 17, 2023

Cybersecurity for Small Businesses: Why It Matters and How to Get Started

In the context of cybersecurity, it appears that business size matters. A report has unveiled that small and medium-sized businesses face a higher risk of being targeted by cybercriminals—nearly three times more often than larger companies.


In the context of cybersecurity, it appears that business size matters. A report has unveiled that small and medium-sized businesses face a higher risk of being targeted by cybercriminals—nearly three times more often than larger companies.

Between January 2021 and December 2021, Barracuda Networks, a leading cloud security company, analyzed millions of emails across various companies. The results illuminated that small businesses encountered a staggering 350% increase in social engineering attacks compared to their counterparts in larger enterprises. In my experience, too, cyberattacks are quite common in small organizations with considerable revenue generation.  

But why is this so? 

Read this blog to see the peculiar reasons that make small and medium-sized companies (SMBs) appealing targets for cybercriminals, learn about the importance of cybersecurity, and understand how to get started.

What is Cyber Security? 

Cybersecurity constitutes a comprehensive array of practices and technologies to protect computer systems, networks, devices, and data from a wide spectrum of digital threats and attacks. These threats take on various types, such as hacking, malware, phishing, ransomware, and more. The primary purpose is to secure the confidentiality, integrity, and accessibility of digital assets and systems.

Courses on cyber security can help aspirants and young professionals gain significant knowledge and insight into cyber security and ways to thwart such malicious attempts.

Importance of Cyber Security for Small Businesses 

Cybersecurity plays a pivotal role in the business landscape, with an emphasis on its importance for small enterprises. Small businesses often grapple with increased vulnerability to cyber threats due to resource limitations that hinder the establishment of robust cybersecurity defenses.

  1. Protection of Confidential Data: Small businesses routinely manage sensitive data, encompassing customer and personnel information, financial records, and proprietary assets. Any breach in cybersecurity exposes these invaluable assets to theft or compromise, incurring financial liabilities and tarnishing the organization's reputation.
  1. Financial Implications: The financial repercussions of a cyberattack can be profoundly detrimental for small enterprises. The expenses associated with incident investigation, remediation, legal consultations, and potential regulatory fines can place an undue burden on financial resources. Furthermore, downtime endured during the restoration can translate into substantial revenue losses.
  1. Preservation of Reputation and Trust: The erosion of trust in a business entity is an adverse consequence of data breaches. Clients and business partners may hesitate to engage with an organization that has suffered a cybersecurity incident, leading to revenue erosion and long-lasting reputational damage.
  1. Compliance Mandates: Various industries are subject to stringent regulatory frameworks governing data protection, such as GDPR and HIPAA. Non-compliance carries severe financial penalties and legal ramifications. As an example, when handling patient information in healthcare, using a HIPAA-compliant form is essential. This safeguards the data and ensures practices maintain compliance with stringent regulations. The implementation of robust cybersecurity protocols is imperative to ensure adherence to these regulatory mandates.
  1. Ransomware Peril: Small enterprises are increasingly susceptible to ransomware attacks. These are attacks where malefactors encrypt critical data and demand ransoms for decryption keys. Compliance with these demands does not guarantee data retrieval and can embolden perpetrators. Vigilant cybersecurity measures are pivotal in thwarting such attacks.
  1. Supply Chain Vulnerabilities: Small businesses frequently form integral components of intricate supply chains. Cyber breaches within a small enterprise are the entry points for attackers to infiltrate bigger partners, increasing detrimental impacts on relationships and the entire supply chain.

The Reasons Why small businesses are targeted by hackers

Here are the reasons why small businesses are targeted by hackers:

  1. Small Businesses Underestimate Cybersecurity: Small businesses often underestimate the extent of the cyber threat landscape. Remarkably, statistics from Keeper Security's 2019 SMB Cyber Threat Study reveal that 66% of decision-makers within small businesses did not perceive their organizations to be at risk from cyberattacks, causing them to neglect to make a cybersecurity plan. This misconception leads to a lack of investment in cybersecurity measures and makes these businesses vulnerable to threats they may not fully comprehend.
  1. Small Businesses Serve as Cyber Entry Points: Cybercriminals frequently employ small businesses as entry points to launch attacks on larger, more lucrative targets. In the 2013 Target data breach, cybercriminals infiltrated a small HVAC services provider. Subsequently, they used stolen credentials to distribute malware to Target's point-of-sale systems and expose the debit and credit card details of 40 million customers. It highlights how small businesses unwittingly become conduits for larger-scale cyberattacks, emphasizing the critical role of malware protection in safeguarding businesses and their customers.
  1. Vulnerability to Coercion: Small businesses are more likely to succumb to ransom demands due to several factors. They lack comprehensive data backups and the practice of routine data recovery procedures. They cannot recover data without paying the ransom, as the cost of data loss often exceeds the ransom amount. Moreover, CNBC's Q3 Small Business Survey statistics indicate that 56% of small business owners expressed no concern about potential cyberattacks. This lack of concern makes small businesses more vulnerable to coercion and ransomware attacks, as they do not prioritize cybersecurity awareness training and protective measures.

Types of Threats for Small Businesses 

  1. Phishing

One of the most serious cyber hazards to small businesses has been and continues to be phishing. It is the practice of cybercriminals attempting to fool you into providing information via electronic interactions. A phishing attack's objective is to gain login or financial information. 

Every day, your organization receives thousands of emails and social media communications. Hackers are well aware of how simple it is to infiltrate a mass of authentic mail. It just takes one hazardous click to get you in the middle of a data breach.

Phishing emails and texts commonly impersonate genuine senders. They can employ contact images, almost identical contact emails, company logos, or other visual design aspects. 

  1. Malware

Malware is a general word for malicious software created by cybercriminals to infiltrate and harm a network or system. It is a set-it-and-forget-it approach for gaining access. Without your awareness, these software tools can encrypt, destroy, copy, and disseminate data from your company. They can monitor your employee's activities and remotely take control of your widgets.

  1. Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware, a subtype of malware, specifically targets small businesses by infiltrating their networks and encrypting critical data. Once encrypted, access to the data is lost, and cybercriminals demand a ransom for the decryption key.

Small businesses are prime targets for ransomware attacks due to their vulnerability stemming from ease of access and often lacking robust data backup practices.

  1. Vulnerabilities of Remote Work

Whether your employees work from home or you travel regularly, the option to work remotely is critical for modern enterprises. 

Unfortunately, this adaptability comes with security hazards to small enterprises. Transporting corporate equipment exposes them to theft, which can result in your data being stolen as well. Public Wi-Fi networks might expose you to various types of hacking and tracking risks. 

  1. Smishing 

Smishing is the technique of phishing using text messages. Like phishing, it includes a cybercriminal mimicking someone you know to steal financial or login information.

When employees with business mobile phones leave your corporation, you may face a smishing assault. A hacker only has to spoof that phone number and speak to your personnel as if they are former employees. 

Smishing texts frequently include links and demands for action. They can imitate package carriers to persuade you to click a link to reserve a delivery that never occurs. They can even pose as banks and request your SSN/TIN. 

How to Evaluate the Risk of Threats in Small Businesses? 

Evaluating the risk of threats in small businesses is a crucial step for an effective cybersecurity strategy. Here's a systematic approach to assess and evaluate these risks:

  1. Scope Definition:

Clearly define the scope of your risk assessment, including the assets, processes, and systems that need protection. Ensure all stakeholders are on the same page regarding your organization's objectives and priorities.

  1. Asset Identification:

Identify and create an inventory of all your assets, both physical and digital, that are critical to your business operations. It includes:

  • Hardware devices, such as servers, computers, and network equipment
  • Software applications, databases, and operating systems
  • Data, including customer information, financial records, and intellectual property
  • Network infrastructure, such as routers, switches, and firewalls
  1. Threat Identification:

Identify potential cybersecurity threats that could target your assets. Stay updated on the latest threats by leveraging threat libraries and resources from reputable sources.

  1. Vulnerability Assessment:

Determine the vulnerabilities or weaknesses in your security measures that could be exploited by identified threats. This includes technical, procedural, and physical vulnerabilities.

  1. Consequence Analysis:

Evaluate the potential consequences of a successful attack, considering the impact on the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your assets. Assess both immediate and long-term consequences.

  1. Risk Likelihood and Impact Assessment:

Assess the likelihood of each threat occurring and the impact it would have on your business. Assign probability and severity ratings to each threat to calculate the overall risk level.

  1. Risk Prioritization:

Determine the risk level for each identified threat using a risk matrix. Classify risks as low, medium, or high based on severity and likelihood.

  1. Risk Mitigation Strategies:

Develop risk mitigation strategies for high and medium-risk threats. Outline specific actions and controls to reduce the likelihood of threats and minimize their impact. Prioritize implementation based on risk levels.

  1. Implementation and Monitoring:

Implement the identified risk mitigation measures and controls. Continuously monitor your systems, networks, and data for potential threats and vulnerabilities. Regularly review and update your security measures.

Tips for Securing Small Business Against Cyber Threats 

  1. Assess the risks before taking any action 

Evaluate potential threats to your company's network, systems, and data security. Identify and assess potential risks to develop a suitable security plan.

Understand where and how your data is kept, who has access to it, and who is authorized to access it. It is important to analyze which unauthorized entities would want access and how they could try to get it. If you keep your company data in the cloud, you can ask your cloud storage provider to help with risk assessment. Determine the risk levels of prospective occurrences and how breaches can affect your business.

Once the risks have been identified, make necessary modifications to the storage and usage system.

  1. Educating the employees 

Establish fundamental security practices as well as regulations for employees including suitable Internet usage guidelines that specify penalties for breaking the cybersecurity policy of the firm and mandating secure passwords. Set extensive guidelines detailing the proper management and security of client information and essential data.

Incorporating courses on cyber security into your small business's training and education programs can empower your employees with the knowledge and skills to identify, mitigate, and report cybersecurity threats effectively. 

  1. Maintain a well-protected Network 

Maintain clean machines: the most effective protection concerning malware and viruses is to employ the best browser, security software as well as operating system. Make sure to configure the antivirus program in a way to scan with each update. Install critical software updates as and when available.

  1. Back up the data 

Remember to back up your data on computers regularly. The most critical data include Word processing papers, financial files, accounts receivable/payable files, human resources files, databases, and electronic spreadsheets. Update the settings to automatically backup data and save copies in the cloud.

  1. Secure the Wi-Fi Networks 

For businesses equipped with a Wi-Fi network, it is a must to secure it. Follow the steps for strengthening it via encryption and concealment. Configure the wireless access point or router to prevent the broadcast of your network's name, referred to as the Service Set Identifier (SSID), thereby hiding your Wi-Fi network. Enhance security by implementing password protection for router access.

  1. Passwords and Authentication 

If your company has a Wi-Fi network, be sure it is safe, encrypted, and hidden. Set up your wireless access point or router so that it does not broadcast the network name, known as the Service Set Identifier (SSID), to hide your Wi-Fi network. Access to the router should be password-protected.


Small businesses encounter cyber risks daily, and the problem is they are not prepared to protect against them. Big establishments have specialized security teams to combat these attacks, but small businesses demand simple, low-cost, and maintenance-free solutions. 

From remote work concerns to ransomware assaults, the spectrum of attacks seems limitless. However, even with the most fundamental security measures stated above, you can secure your organization and customers. If you are uncertain if the expense is worthwhile, consider the possible company loss and legal issues in case of a successful cyber assault.


  1. Are there affordable cybersecurity solutions for small businesses? 

Small businesses can leverage antivirus software, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems. Also, cloud-based security services and managed security service providers offer scalable and affordable cybersecurity solutions. Small businesses seeking scalable and cost-effective cybersecurity solutions should consider collaborating with a managed security service provider (MSSP). These providers bring expertise and resources that can significantly optimize your cybersecurity stance, providing tailored solutions that grow with you and address the diverse threat landscape small businesses face.

  1. How do I create a cybersecurity budget for my small business? 

To create a cybersecurity budget, assess your business's needs, consider potential threats, and allocate resources for software, training, and ongoing monitoring.

  1. Is cybersecurity a one-time investment, or is it an ongoing process for small businesses?

Cybersecurity is an ongoing process for small businesses. Small businesses must continuously assess risks, update security measures, and stay knowledgeable about the latest threats and best practices. 

  1. What are the signs that my small business may have experienced a cyberattack?

Signs that a small business may have experienced a cyber attack include:

  • Unusual network activity or slow network performance
  • Unauthorized access to sensitive data or systems
  • Unexpected system crashes or errors
  • Changes in file sizes, timestamps, or permissions
  • Unusual or suspicious emails, messages, or pop-ups
  • Unexplained financial transactions or discrepancies
  • Customer complaints of unauthorized access or data breach

  1. Are there government resources or incentives to help small businesses improve their cybersecurity? 

Yes, government resources and incentives, such as grants and cybersecurity awareness programs, are available to help small businesses enhance their cybersecurity defenses. 

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