Cyber-attacks on small businesses are on the rise but many business owners still aren’t prepared to deal with potential breaches.
Last year, 43 percent of all attacks worldwide were targeted at small businesses with less than 250 employees, according to the cybersecurity firm Symantec’s annual Internet Security Threat Report, which was released in April 2016. That’s up from 34 percent in 2014. Symantec reported a “steady increase” in attacks targeting small businesses over the last five years.
“Cybersecurity is critical for businesses of all sizes,” said Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, director of the Center for Cybersecurity at the University of West Florida. “Cyber criminals are looking for valuable data, such as financial or health data, and they will target smaller businesses if such data is easier to access. Reports indicate that small and medium-sized business are more likely to be the targets of cyber-attacks than larger corporations. And, it may be harder for smaller company to recover from an attack that costs millions of dollars.”
A survey released by Nationwide Insurance in November 2015 shows that 79 percent of small businesses do not have a cyber-attack response plan even though 63 percent of those businesses have already been the victim of a cyber-attack. The survey focused on 500 small business owners who have fewer than 300 employees.
“It’s important for companies of all sizes to have a cybersecurity plan to protect their business. Companies should consider how to secure and backup their data, develop secure communication and business protocols and provide cybersecurity training for employees,” El-Sheikh said. “No matter how secure a company’s systems or networks are, they’re only as strong as their weakest link. So it’s important for small businesses to educate their employees about proper cybersecurity practices.”
According to a study from the National Small Business Association, the average cyber-attack cost a small business just over $20,000 in 2014.
The Florida SBDC offers cybersecurity consulting services to small business owners to help them avoid loss.
“Cybersecurity is a growing issue for small businesses,” said Michael Myhre, CEO and Network State Director for the Florida SBDC. “Small businesses often do not have the resources or expertise to protect themselves from cyber-attacks and are frequently targeted due to this vulnerability. Therefore, developing a cybersecurity strategy is extremely important no matter a businesses’ size. Florida SBDCs can assist small businesses evaluate the risk of cyber threats and help businesses proactively guard themselves from an attack through the creation of cybersecurity plans.”
This article is a series as part of the 2016 State of Small Business Report: Small Business and Its Impact on Florida, a report developed by the Florida SBDC Network in collaboration with the University of West Florida Center for Research and Economic Opportunity. To read the full report, please click here.