Cyberattacks and data breaches have been making headlines more and more these last few years. Whether it was the 40 million customer credit and debit cards stolen from Target in 2013, the major email leak at Sony Pictures Entertainment in 2014 or the 22 million personnel records compromised in the federal Office of Personnel Management this year, it’s hard to deny we’re seeing an already troubling trend grow even bigger.
But perhaps there’s an even more worrisome trend at play that is not only suffering a lack of media exposure, but is actually being exacerbated by that lack of coverage. Because while all of the above victims and plenty more – including Home Depot, Anthem, P.F. Chang’s and JPMorgan Chase – represented serious and major breaches of consumer or corporate information, they’re also all major enterprises. And you would be remiss to believe that only the biggest companies get taken down by cyberattackers, when, in fact, it’s the smaller businesses that often prove the most frequent and fruitful targets for hackers.
A survey released by Nationwide Insurance revealed that approximately 80 percent of all small- to mid-sized businesses in the U.S. don’t have a cyberattack response plan in place. Additionally, 60 percent of all cyberattacks are targeted at these same SMBs.
If this seems grossly disproportionate with the amount of news coverage given to hacked enterprises over SMBs, that’s because it is – and that’s exactly what cyberthieves are banking on. Because SMBs have fewer resources to work with, and are less likely to learn about cyberthreats to their business from the news, they end up lacking the tools or knowledge for implementing defense-in-depth measures to protect themselves from cyberattackers.
This effectively makes SMBs into the path of least resistance for hackers, who can not only steal consumer information more easily – like names, credit card data or Social Security numbers – but are also less likely to draw major attention to themselves for it. After all, when was the last time you saw The New York Times or the Associated Press talk about a mom-and-pop store being hacked?
All of this isn’t meant to downplay the risk posed by hackers to enterprises, of course. Cyberattacks affect all companies, and major businesses and government agencies have to contend with countless cyberthreats on a daily basis – threats that, even if only one succeeds in reaching its target, can cause lasting damage to their brand or reputation. But these enterprises also have the means to better defend themselves. SMBs traditionally don’t.
That makes it all the more essential for smaller businesses to arm themselves with remote access VPNs and encryption tools in order to defend their data – both consumer and company-owned – from opportunistic hackers. If the media isn’t going to do SMBs any favor in bringing attention to their share of cyberrisks, then it’s imperative for these smaller companies to help themselves.
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