Why Small Businesses Cannot Allow Skimping on Cybersecurity

For online security experts, the most frustrating part of witnessing small and medium businesses hit by data breaches and other cybercrimes is recognizing that such attacks can often be prevented.

While many Canadian businesses expect proper cybersecurity to be expensive or time-consuming, the reality is the opposite, according to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security. SMBs can do a vast deal to protect themselves by taking a few quick and simple steps.

The most basic step any company can take is teaching employees about the fact that attacks are occurring and that they can target anyone.

Employees can then be notified of some of the most basic forms these attacks take, such as phishing – email messages that attempt to lure users into clicking on malicious links that can paralyze a company’s network and expose its data to criminals.

Cybercrime is the main problem for Canadian SMBs. A September report by the Insurance Bureau of Canada found that one in five had been hit by a cyberattack or data breach in the past two years.

About 44 percent said they had no protection, while 37 percent estimated that incidents cost them more than $100,000. Nearly two-thirds said they had no insurance to help recover.

Efforts must involve a shift in behavior by businesses, where reporting suspicious-looking emails and other communications – as well as potential mistakes by employees themselves who may have clicked on them – is encouraged rather than penalized.

Companies should also make sure they have a strategy for what happens in the event of a breach, which covers employees knowing who to report to and what actions need to be taken, says Florian Kerschbaum, associate professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo.

The best way to avoid large recovery costs or even an existential threat, he adds, is for companies to evaluate their most valuable assets and then back those up, either on separate hard drives that aren’t attached to a network or through third-party cloud storage providers.

Those backups should also be constantly tested – something many businesses forget to do.

Breaches can still occur even after precautions have been taken, which can raise complex questions on next steps – particularly in the case of ransomware, or an attack that encrypts a business’s data and then sells access back for a fee.

Security experts vary in their views on ransomware, which provokes debates between practicality and ethics.

Some understand why businesses end up paying the fees asked by criminals – doing so is often much less expensive than trying to restore the lost data. In such situations, unwillingly playing ball might be the only option.

Source: The Globe and Mail