Featured image by Jirsak

In 2021, small businesses need to step up their cybersecurity game. Cybercrime is on the rise, skyrocketing by 600% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s easy for small business owners to brush off these numbers, thinking that cyberattacks only affect large corporations, such as the recent hack of a major oil pipeline.

However, statistics from Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report show that one in three cyber breaches (28%) involved small businesses.

For victims of successful cyberattacks, the consequences are often devastating. On average, a breach costs small businesses nearly $150,000. Moreover, it causes a loss of customer trust and irreparable damage to a company’s reputation.

Considering this, it should come as no surprise that 60% of small businesses hit with cyberattacks shutter within six months.

However, to improve your cybersecurity strategy, it’s first essential to understand where your vulnerabilities lie.

To help you, here are the five greatest cybersecurity weaknesses that small businesses have to tackle in 2021.

1. Missing Awareness and Skills Among Team Members

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2020, the widespread lack of cybersecurity awareness and skills is the single biggest challenge businesses face when it comes to digital security.

No matter how small your business, it’s essential to train each team member on cybersecurity protocols. What’s more, make sure every employee adheres to these standards.

Everyone you work with needs to be able to identify security threats, whether they come in the form of phishing emails or malicious software.

They also need to stick to security policies when creating accounts and passwords, handling social media, and sharing data.

Even with a stellar cybersecurity setup, including the best software and hardware components, all it takes is a single careless team member for a breach to happen.

RELATED ARTICLE: TAKE STEPS TO PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS FROM CYBERCRIME

2. Unprotected Devices and Networks

Especially during remote work, unprotected endpoints pose a significant cybersecurity risk to small businesses.

According to a recent survey of small to midsize businesses (SMB) in the UK and US, 20% don’t use any endpoint security protection. Of those who do, a third rely exclusively on free, consumer-grade solutions.

Overall, this means that close to half of all SMBs don’t have a budget for protecting their network with measures like antivirus, firewalls, or virtual private networks (VPNs).

Plus, the situation is made even more precarious by the fact that many SMBs allow team members to use their personal devices for work purposes.

Considering the increased incidence of cyberattacks, and the devastating consequences of a potential breach, SMBs need to invest in endpoint security.

Cybersecurity solutions evolve in step with threats and cover a wide range of business needs. They range from basic antivirus to comprehensive solutions like Aura. These combine technical aspects like VPN and WiFi security with cybersecurity insurance and breach monitoring.

3. A Lack of Vigilance About Phishing Trends

While many phishing attempts are low-effort and easy to spot—such as fake FedEx notifications—others are becoming increasingly tailored.

“Spearphishing,” for example, uses messages pretending to come from a manager, supplier, or client and can cause huge damage. “Whaling” targets managers and bosses themselves, with an equally large damage potential.

In addition, phishing is no longer restricted to emails. Hackers have branched out across social media, various messengers, and text messages.

To counter this cybersecurity threat, it’s essential for small businesses to stay on top of current phishing trends in their industry. Additionally, small businesses need to implement a zero-trust policy among their team members.

4. Underestimating Ransomware Threats

Deploying ransomware is among the most frequently used tactics by hackers to target businesses. In fact, total extortion demands in 2020 exceeded $1.4 billion.

According to Verizon’s data, 87% of small business hacks are financially motivated. Ransomware is thus an extremely common threat. It is an easy way for criminals to extract hard-to-trace crypto funds from you.

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW WILL THE PRICE OF BITCOIN FLUCTUATE IN COMING YEARS?

What makes this type of attack especially devastating for small businesses is that hackers are increasingly trying to hit your entire network at once, backups included. They also often dial up the pressure for payments by threatening to sell or release your data, along with your clients’ information.

5. Not Having A Cybersecurity Response Plan

Finally, one of the most glaring cyber vulnerabilities of small businesses is a lack of preparation for the worst-case scenario.

If a breach does happen, it’s crucial to recognize it quickly and respond instantly to minimize the damage.

However, data by the Ponemon Institute shows that almost 40% of SMBs lack any sort of response plan. Consequently, they are left scrambling in the event of a cyber breach, easy prey for hackers.

Institute Cybersecurity Measures Now

Small businesses can’t afford to underestimate the danger of cyberattacks in 2021.

Instead, they need to develop and enforce comprehensive strategies to protect themselves and their clients against potential breaches.

Becoming aware of the most common vulnerabilities—from a lack of awareness to a missing response plan—is the first step in this process.