Five cyber threats SMEs must not ignore
Mokshita P.
10X Technology

Five cyber threats SMEs must not ignore

SMEs face the same security threats that their larger counterparts do. We explored five areas of cyber vulnerabilities, from phishing attacks and lack of cyber security knowledge to DDoS attack and cloud service securities failures and what SMEs should be tackling them.

SMEs face the same security threats that their larger counterparts do. Unfortunately, these SMEs do not have the advanced cyber security apparatuses employed by larger organizations.

Here is a staggering number. Businesses with fewer than 20 workers in the United States account for 89 per cent of all organizations with employees. And we just noted that they are the least prepared to repel hackers.

But as we’ve seen, their size and lack of in-depth cyber security make them a prime target for crooks. Large corporations can absorb the monetary loss caused by cyber security breaches. These breaches can mean SMEs are forced to close their doors.

Let’s look at exactly what these threats are.

Spear Phishing

Phishing attacks result in the loss of billions of dollars by SMEs every year. Spear phishing is one of the most significant challenges IT departments face today and is the point of entry for many intrusions, including identity theft, ransomware, and hacking. Unlike generalized phishing frauds, spear phishing is targeted. Cybercriminals will use individually designed approaches and rely on social engineering techniques to make an email seem legitimate and directed to the target. Traditional security measures do not stop these attacks because of how customized they are. One slip-up enables cybercriminals to deploy malware, employ denial-of-service attacks, and steal critical data. Even high-ranking individuals such as executives and management may open an email they believe is safe, only to expose their company’s data.

Lack of cyber security knowledge

38 per cent of claims could have been avoided if better education and training were implemented by SMEs, according to a report by CFC Underwriting. Moreover, reports show that low-security awareness among employees is the leading cause of network insecurity. This has been the leading cause of cybersecurity breaches for four years. Surveys show that two-thirds of US employees have never heard of ransomware or password protection. Likely, employees will only take steps to prevent ransomware or other sources of cyber-attacks if they know they exist.

DDoS Attacks

Distributed Denial of Service attacks can paralyze SMEs. In 2016, 80 websites in the United States and Europe were made inaccessible to the public because of DDoS Attacks. DDoS attacks are a nefarious tool criminals use to disrupt their target server traffic. The goal is to make the service or network so overwhelmed with Internet traffic that it becomes unusable. DDoS attacks are effective because multiple compromised computer systems are used simultaneously to attack traffic. Cybercriminals can exploit your computer, machines connected to networks, and IOT devices. During an attack, Internet traffic is jammed from an elevated level, preventing regular, desired traffic from reaching its destination.

Your computer or other devices will be infected with malware. Each computer will become a zombie or a bot. A botnet is where an attacker has control of several network devices. The attacker will target the IP address of their victim and cause the server or network to reach overcapacity. Since each bot is a legitimate Internet device, it can be difficult, if possible, to separate the traffic used in an attack from regular traffic.

Internal Attacks

Verizon investigated 500 intrusions that took place over four years. They concluded that 18 per cent of the breaches arose from internal attacks. Although the number of internal attacks on SMEs is fewer than in larger companies, their impact is more significant since individuals are given access to several systems in smaller companies. Insider threats, be they from vendors, employees, or other individuals who have access to your data, are a potential way in for cyber criminals. The breaches could be caused by negligent individuals or those looking to attack your data maliciously. Negligence has led to many individuals with insider access to their company’s files compromising the company from the inside without even knowing it. They clicked on phishing emails that gave criminals access to their company’s data.

As insider threats increase, businesses are taking more action to protect themselves. These actions include:

  • Employee training

  • Incident response plans

  • System monitors

SME owners often ignore or are oblivious to potential insider threats. This is why it is more important than ever that SMEs take the initiative in approaching security and searching for insider threats.

Cloud service securities failures

Chinese hacking group “Red Apollo” launched a global cyber espionage campaign that was unparalleled in its scale. Instead of attacking companies directly, it attacked cloud service providers and networks to spread spy tools to several companies. SMEs are drawn to cloud service providers because of their flexibility and scalability. Although cloud computing offers significant benefits and opportunities for SMEs, it also presents several security and privacy challenges. Properly addressing the security challenges in cloud environments requires a mixture of legal, organizational, and technological approaches. Unfortunately, much of this lies beyond the control of the financial limitations of SMEs. Several flaws in cloud architecture offer the potential for cyber criminals to exploit vulnerabilities to security, gaining access to information that should be kept private. These challenges include a lack of control over the data lifecycle, breaches, and service hacking. Cloud technology and cloud computing are relatively modern technologies for SMEs to venture into. SMEs with a good grasp of business and an understanding of the proper steps to secure cloud technology can reap its benefits.

To summarize, SMEs face a range of cyber vulnerabilities, from phishing attacks and lack of cyber security knowledge to DDoS attack and cloud service securities failures. However, by implementing robust security measures and providing regular cybersecurity training to employees, SMEs can reduce their risk of cyber threats and protect their sensitive data.