It may seem like hacking is an exclusive problem for big businesses, but in reality, small businesses are more likely targets. In fact, 43 percent of all cyberattacks target small businesses specifically, and 60 percent of small businesses will go out of business within the first six months after a cyberattack. Small businesses are promising targets because they typically have access to significant resources (or at least more than an individual) but have low cybersecurity standards.
So how are all these small businesses getting hacked in the first place?
Common Breaches, Hacks, and Cybercrimes
“Hacking” is a general term that often gets misused. In modern parlance, it typically refers to any attempt, often malicious, to gain control over your business’s systems or data. In reality, cybercriminals can use many different methods to “hack” your accounts, your devices, and your networks, and some of them don’t require any technical knowledge.
These are some of the most common methods:
1. The DDoS attack
DDoS attacks are “distributed denial of service” attacks. They often utilize bots or another source of traffic to overwhelm your servers, preventing them from functioning efficiently and in some cases preventing your customers from using your services. For example, a dedicated hacker could use a DDoS attack to render your site inaccessible. There are many ways to protect against DDoS attacks, including filtering DDoS traffic, relying on dynamic DNS allocation, or using load balancing strategies to redistribute heavy traffic.
2. Phishing schemes
Some hacks occur when one of your team members’ login credentials have been compromised. This often happens via phishing schemes, which mimic a realistic, trustworthy source to fool your employees into entering their usernames and passwords. For example, a skilled hacker may create a landing page similar to the login page you’re used to, and capture the keystrokes entered by an employee.
3. Social engineering
Not all hacking attempts require technical proficiency. Some cybercriminals attempt to obtain employee passwords and privileged information in other ways, such as through social engineering. They may call your employees pretending to be a representative from a third-party app you use, and convince them to hand over their password.
4. Malicious downloads
If your employees click a download link that isn’t trustworthy, it could result in them downloading malware that infects your entire network. This also includes downloading email attachments that are infected with malware. You can train your employees to be wary of these types of links, but they’re not always easy to identify.
5. USB key infiltration
A hacker with a USB drive can manually load a virus onto one of your employee’s devices, bypassing any firewalls or network protections you have. This typically requires someone to gain physical access to one of your devices.
6. Code-based exploits
Code-based hacks are designed to take advantage of a weakness in your network or your devices. These exploits are difficult to pull off, even for experienced coders, since they require finding and exploiting a weakness in a professionally designed system.
7. Unsecured Wi-Fi networks
Unsecured Wi-Fi networks are major sources of vulnerability. If a hacker is able to gain access to your Wi-Fi network, they could conceivably gain access to any incoming and outgoing traffic on your network. Fortunately, a strong password and high encryption standards can ward off most of these attacks.
8. Third-party apps and sites
If one of your third-party apps or websites is compromised, it could lead to problems for your business. For example, if you store most of your client data using a third-party cloud storage provider and they’re the victim of a hack, it could mean all your data is compromised in the process.
9. Password reset exploits
Some hackers exploit the password reset feature of certain websites to gain access to one of your employees’ accounts. Fortunately, most websites and apps have security measures in place to prevent this from happening. Still, all it takes is one vulnerability from one site to compromise your security.
10. Guessed passwords
The least sophisticated hacking method is embarrassingly common. If your employees are using passwords that are exceptionally common or easy to guess, hackers may be able to gain access to your accounts just by experimenting with different password combinations, then taking advantage of a correct guess.
Improving Your Cybersecurity
Improving your small business’s cybersecurity isn’t just about installing better antivirus software or a better firewall. Instead, you’ll need a comprehensive approach, and the first step in executing a comprehensive plan is understanding and acknowledging the diversity of threats that could interrupt or jeopardize your business. Educate yourself on these common threats, and educate your employees as well. The more you know, the better measures you can take to protect yourself.