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The rising threat of cyber attacks – how can small businesses prepare?

3-minute read

The rising threat of cyber attacks – how can small businesses prepare?
Conor Shilling

Conor Shilling

9 September 2021

Almost three quarters (73 per cent) of small businesses lack the capability and expertise to withstand a cybersecurity attack, new research has revealed.

This news comes at a time when cyber threats are becoming increasingly sophisticated and businesses are more vulnerable as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Read on to find out why small businesses feel ill-equipped to deal with cyber threats, the most common attacks, and how you can protect your business.

Cyber security – what is ‘alert fatigue’?

Many small businesses are experiencing cyber security ‘alert fatigue’, according to a survey of over 500 small and medium sized business owners carried out by security operations firm Arctic Wolf.

Alert fatigue could mean some businesses are ignoring important warnings due to the high number they receive each week.

Almost two fifths (39 per cent) of business owners surveyed said they felt overwhelmed by the volume of security alerts their business receives, with many receiving up to 75 alerts a day.

Businesses that ignore important security alerts could be at risk of a cyber attack or data breach, particularly if they don’t have the right protection in place.

Is the cyber threat a low priority for small businesses?

Balancing the importance of cyber security with core business activity is challenging for many firms.

According to Arctic Wolf’s study, 55 per cent of business owners said they regularly deprioritise cyber issues in favour of other business activity.

The cyber attacks statistics show that 34 per cent of respondents admitted to not having time to keep across every threat or alert.

It’s been suggested that some small businesses treat cyber security as low-priority because they think hackers are more likely to go after the biggest organisations.

However, the 2021 Data Breach Investigation Report from Verizon reports that almost a third (28 per cent) of data breaches in 2020 involved small businesses.

What are the most common types of cyber attacks?

The European Union Agency for Cybersecurity (ENISA) has revealed a common list of cyber attacks experienced by small and medium-sized businesses:

  • phishing attacks – fraudulent emails asking businesses to share passwords and banking information
  • malware – software designed to get unauthorised access to a computer and cause damage, such as a virus
  • malicious insiders – attacks from employees or former employees who have access to your system and breach sensitive data
  • denial-of-service strikes – an attack which aims to shut down a company’s systems so it can’t operate

What impact has the pandemic had on cyber security for businesses?

The Covid-19 pandemic has made small businesses more vulnerable to cyber security attacks, according to ENISA.

It says that increased remote working and use of contactless payment methods have given attackers new opportunities to target.

This is backed up by Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigation Report, which suggests that 22% of small and medium-sized businesses have suffered a security breach due to a remote worker since March 2020.

Although it might be difficult to stop every threat, small businesses can protect themselves in a post-pandemic market by having as many layers of defence as possible and creating obstacles for hackers to get around.

These could include multi-factor authentication technology and regularly training staff about the cyber security threats they face.

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How to prevent cyber attacks against your business

It’s important to have a robust defence against cyber attacks in place. And, as the technology used to carry out attacks develops quickly, you’ll need to review your procedures regularly.

Some of the simplest things you can do include:

  • updating software – installing updates as soon as they become available is an easy way to protect your business
  • backing up your data – if you were to fall victim to a cyber attack, backing up your business-critical information can help you to keep going
  • staying alert – keep up-to-date with security threats and make sure you don't fall into the trap of alert fatigue

Read our guide to securing your small business against a cyber attack for more tips on how you can prepare for the worst-case scenario.

Does your business need cyber insurance?

As the number of recent cyber attacks continues to grow, cyber insurance could help to protect your small business.

This type of insurance could be beneficial for your business if you hold sensitive data such as personal customer details, rely on computer systems and online software, or have a payment card industry (PCI) merchant services agreement.

Read our guide to cyber insurance for small businesses to find out more about the biggest cyber attacks, the data breaches you could be fined for, and the software you can use to protect your business.

How do you protect your business against cyber attacks and data breaches? Let us know in the comments below.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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