January 13, 2016
First things first, I want to dispel the stereotype that hackers only want to go after the “big fish”. What I mean is people tend to assume that hackers only target big time corporate websites, such as Samsung, Amazon, Apple, etc., that store tons of valuable customer and personal data. They still certainly target these businesses, but a startling new trend is emerging. Rather than investing time and energy to infiltrate more fortified and secure enterprise websites, hackers are now starting to attack smaller and vulnerable websites to do their dirty work. In fact, Symantec recently issued a threat report that showed three out of every five cyber attacks centered on attacking small businesses. This can be an ominous trend for SMB and startup owners, but it certainly doesn't mean it's the end of the world! Let's learn more about what hackers really what out of small businesses.
What Do Hackers Want From Me?
The question is why would blue chip hackers want to hack small businesses such as yourself? It's pretty logical, really. You see, there are a lot of misunderstandings about web security when it comes to small business owners. Before we delve deep into why hackers want to access your website, we need to understand the motivating factors for hackers to hack SMB websites. To begin with, a huge mistake most small business owners are guilty of is placing too much misguided trust into basic web security from their hosting providers or content management systems. Even if your website is powered by a hugely popular name brand CMS, such as WordPress, doesn't make you totally exempt from potential attacks. Also, a great piece of advice that everyone should adhere to is that cybersecurity is the individual's responsibility (not somebody else)! Protecting your customer and personal data is solely up to you and this is a duty that should be held with high accountability. It keeps me up at night wondering how many countless websites I've potentially submitted personal data to and whether or not those website owners take full responsibility for the security of my private information.
Another large, but fatal, misunderstanding regarding web security for small business owners is the dilatory, “I'll worry about it when I get hacked” mentality. However, the logic behind this thought process is extremely flawed. Most small business owners or startups tend to overlook cybersecurity due to several factors, such as the burdensome management of a cybersecurity solution and the associated costs, but writing off cybersecurity until it's too late can have grave consequences. According to Inc. Magazine, 71 percent of all data breaches targeted small businesses with less than 100 employees. The real issue being that these attacks cost roughly $36,000 in damages and lost revenue that small businesses had to incur. To large enterprise corporations, $36,000 in average attack damages might be just a drop in the bucket, but to SMB owners, this can cripple a business. Cyber attacks can have a far more negative impact on smaller companies as they typically do not have the proper resources, dedicated information security specialists, or the capital to effectively counteract all malicious intents to their website. The truly scary part is hackers know this and want to take advantage of this more than ever.
So, this brings us back to the original question — why would hackers attack your business, rather than a large corporation? Although there are a lot of reasons why hackers want to hack your website, it's pretty clear that most small business owners aren't fully prepared for a cyber attack. This is not at all the fault of SMB owners, but more so a fault by design. Small business websites contain just as much personal and private information as large enterprise websites. The primary difference being that smaller websites are just that much easier to gain access and pilfer the desired information. Just to get in the head of potential hackers, people need to realize that corporate websites might have more data in terms of sheer volume, but will ultimately be heavily supported by an enterprise cybersecurity solution. If you were a hacker, which would you choose to hack? The answer is pretty simple.
What Can I Do to Protect My Website?
I just want to preface this section by saying that cybersecurity should be treated as an ongoing task. Your job doesn't end right after applying a cybersecurity solution to your business. Hackers are always one step ahead of everyone and are constantly developing new attack methods to grow more sophisticated by the day. Not to mention, a large portion of web hacking can actually originate from insider employees or disgruntled ex-employees. For instance, Federal IT managers recently revealed that more than 45 percent of government agencies experienced insider attack attempts and 29% of these cases subsequently suffered from data loss. This just goes to show the far reaching range of cyber attacks and the scale at which it can be executed.
Luckily, there are some preemptive measures you can take to strengthen your cybersecurity and potentially deter any malicious attacks from taking over your business. The first step in building a better cybersecurity environment is to fully accept the fact that your website is just as vulnerable as any other company. Web attacks can happen to anyone, it's as simple as that. All the excuses you have for putting cybersecurity on the back burner can really come back to haunt you. These excuses for delaying website protection are the impetus for hackers to specifically target smaller businesses such as yourself. Changing your mindset that these attacks can happen to you is a big step in the right direction.
Next, be careful who you grant administrative access to your customer or personal data on your website. This is a crucial element to your cybersecurity plan. As I mentioned above, in the case of US Government cyber attacks, 45 percent of the attacks were launched by or originated from insider sources. Just as you would never give your banking information or pin number to any relative or friend, you need to treat customers' and your own personal information with the same high level standards. Also, in terms of properly securing information with inside sources, ensure that they are promptly trained about cybersecurity best practices and held accountable for their actions. These days, users can easily find their computers and/or network systems infected with malware just by clicking on the wrong link on a website. This can be a stepping stone for hackers to infiltrate your system remotely. I highly recommend reading these tips on how to detect whether your system is infected with malware.
Lastly, since we are dealing with hackers or even remotely launched malicious attacks, it is important to protect your website and web servers (not just your actual end point physical computer). One great way to protect your website is to utilize a web application firewall (WAF). WAFs work to filter potential intrusions and web attacks BEFORE they affect your website. This is a great preventative measure to keep your online data safe. Additionally, most WAFs are also offered in cloud form, which can help you implement a great website protection service for a fraction of the cost and without any complicated installation.
Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of how vulnerable your small business can be to web attacks. It's really up to you to be more vigilant and take control of your own website. Remember, cybersecurity isn't just a set it and forget it type of process. Hackers these days might not be as motivated to chase the big fish, but as the old say goes there's always plenty of other fish in the sea and this can't be more true for the world of cybersecurity. Don't let your website fall prey to these dangerous web hackers and get started with web security today!
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