Understanding Internet Security Threats for Small Businesses PDF Print E-mail

Small business makes up a huge part of the global economy. Based on a new survey of U.S. small businesses sponsored by Symantec and the National Cyber Security Alliance, sixty-seven percent (67%) of small businesses have become more dependent on the Internet last year and sixty-six (66%) are dependent on it for their day-to-day operations.

The Internet is a vast gateway that provides great potential for businesses. More small businesses today use networks and the Internet as vital business tools to find new customers, and serve existing customers more effectively.

Strategic Research Corporation reported that seventy (70%) percent of small firms that experienced a major data loss went out of business within a year. In a related survey by Insight UK, thirty-seven percent (37%) of respondents admitted that they backup their files only once a month. Some, unbelievably, never back up at all. Some of these small online businesses don't even install anti-virus software and anti-spyware in their computers.

Internet security threats can severely impair business operations, affecting profitability and customer satisfaction. Businesses lost huge amounts of money to cyber criminals and internet scams. Not only is the business compromised, but the safety of the customers as well. Many individuals been victims of identity theft and other Internet crimes. Internet security is a grave issue as danger lurks everywhere on the Internet and anyone online is susceptible.

Cyber criminals, attack tools and methods have evolved and these criminals are coming up with new ways to attack businesses all the time. They are using more sophisticated and dynamic methods of stealing information. "High-tech criminals that steal highly secure information, but even more novice users are capable of making an attack due to the tools available to them. These criminals do not focus on the size of your businesses, rather, the ease of getting past your defenses and stealing your information, which is of great value to them.

Small businesses are attractive to cyber criminals

Cyber criminals already control more than 100 million computers across the globe, and have have shifted their attention to small businesses and individuals. While large firms are ideal targets because of their large assets, small businesses are more vulnerable to attacks. Large firms have set security and contingency measures in place, but small businesses are at risk since cyber criminals know that they are the least protected.

A closer look reveals that most small businesses lack effective protection from attackers and other cyber criminals, sufficient cyber security policies and training. They often lack resources to hire internet security experts or purchase effective security software. Some rely on using cheap Internet security software or making use of freeware, or none at all, and doing so makes them easy targets. This lack of security investment creates an environment that is relatively low risk for criminals.

A firewall coupled with anti-virus software and spyware are not sufficient protection against the web threats and email threats of today. Other factors such as data loss due to hardware failures, proper backup procedures and disaster recovery, are also often overlooked.

In other cases, management views information security as a cost that can be cut during difficult financial times, only to create the potential to suffer significant losses in the long run. Brad Dinerman, founder of the National Information Security Group, states that, "When economic circumstances look dire, it is easy to turn security into a checklist item that keeps being pushed back. However the reality is that, in such situations, security should be a primary issue. The likelihood of threats affecting your organization will probably increase and the impact can be more detrimental."

Online technology, particularly social media, creates a myriad of challenges and problems for businesses. In small business marketing, promotion through social marketing, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ is becoming a huge trend. Online businesses realize the affordability and ease of use of these channels and are using them as promotional tools.

Unfortunately social networking, as well as other emerging technology such as smartphones and tablets, provide avenues of potential threats and attack. Social networking platforms provide cyber criminals with the ability to reach targets where smart phones and other devices play a large role. Businesses with employees who access corporate data using their smartphones and tablets need to have implemented security policies for these devices to avoid making them prone to social engineering attacks.

Ensuring the security of business networks while utilizing the benefits of social networks and mobile technology becomes a challenge for business owners.

Strengthening Internet Security

Security threats are continually evolving - as threats change, and new threats appear. The continuously increasing level of security threats makes it imperative for small businesses to increase their level of security knowledge and investment.

Fortunately, there are also a variety of ways to protect your business from Internet security threats. Investing in reliable security solutions combined with actual knowledge provides small business owners with a well-rounded approach to protecting their businesses and managing cyber risk.

Developing a security policy that can easily be updated and enforced is important. It is also vital to focus on network security prevention such as educating staff on safe web usage, choosing secure passwords, empowering your staff with the best practices and guidelines, keeping PC and network security up to date, and limiting exposure through content filtering.

Security is not an option for businesses, but a necessity. Information security is not a one-time project. It is an ongoing process that requires continual monitoring and updating.


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