With the coronavirus pandemic creating unprecedented health and economic crisis worldwide, the livelihoods of businesses are all at stake globally. Although big and medium enterprises have been affected, small businesses have taken the biggest hit. All the stakeholders need to ensure how to take decisive action to combat the economic repercussions as the future functioning of the global economy is of utmost importance.
A report suggesting that 89% of small businesses have moved to the remote workforce tells us of a significant gap between the perceived importance of cybersecurity protections for businesses whose employees range from below 10 to more than 10. Small businesses are more prone to cyberattacks because they are less apprehensive as compared to bigger organizations, making them an easy target for cybercriminals.
Furthermore, 31% of small businesses whose employees are less than 10 have seen an increase in the cybersecurity concerns for their owners. These numbers make more sense as low concern for small businesses also equates to much smaller investments in cybersecurity.
Therefore, cybersecurity is no longer a challenge; it’s a continuous threat in the wake of COVID-19 that needs to be minimized if not completely get rid of it. I faced a similar challenge when working for a small IT business and have laid down some points on how to mitigate those risks.
Increase in Cyberattacks on Small Businesses Due to COVID-19
COVID-19 has disrupted our businesses and has increased the risk of cyberattacks on SMBs. The upsurge on the use of online and digital tools to support communication has given the opportunity to cybercriminals to take undue advantage.
Even before the COVID-19 disruption, small companies have always been the target of cybercriminals due to a lack of proper resources.
Since many businesses have adopted work from home strategy, the customer activity has increased; more use of online services by SMBs in the wake of COVID-19 has put on much greater risk, translating into immense stress on cyber-security controls.
This gives cybercriminals the opportunity to exploit at will. Now, in light of security risks, small companies must identify the threats and effectively manage their operations as part of the business continuity plans.
The Main Cybersecurity Risks for SMBs in COVID-19 Crisis
The following are key risks that SMEs can avoid to enhance the security of their operations:
Ø Scam Emails (Phishing)
Emails are the primary target for these criminals because they can compromise the operation of any business. A compromised email can prove to be disastrous and even fatal in some cases if proper security measures are not ensured in a timely and effective manner. Hackers use a basic social engineering technique to convince users into providing their sensitive data.
How do they do make themselves legitimate?
They often pose themselves as a trusted source such as WHO. The emails by design are to defraud users on the internet by asking their personal information, demanding payment for a fake account, and more importantly, tricking the people into clicking harmful links or attachments.
There’s more to it; phishing is not just limited to emails only but they are also delivered via SMS, instant messaging, and even social media.
Here are some useful tips to spot scam emails:
- You may find poor grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes in the email.
- Determine the overall quality and make sure that you were expecting an email from a trustworthy organization.
- Does the sender know you by name? If not then its most probably a phishing email!
- Clickbait emails like “click immediately” which asks you to send complete details otherwise your system is at risk.
- Lastly, an official email never asks for personal or bank details through mail.
Ø Malware Distribution
The term malware refers to software that is intentionally designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client, or network. It includes spyware, viruses, trojans, and other tools hackers use to infect your system. Employees need to ensure that they don’t download unapproved software that can lead to malware.
Firms with cybersecurity experts have identified multiple malware families including ransomware and spyware whose main aim is to exploit systems and gain unauthorized access to the networks. Now, this can definitely compromise sensitive data causing damage to the SMEs’ IT systems.
The COVID-19 crisis has provided ample opportunities to these hackers by theming malicious campaigns around COVID-19. SMEs need to ensure that firewalls and anti-malware systems are always up to date as they are the first line of defense.
Ø Remote Working Threats
There is a huge challenge in securing the infrastructure for remote working employees. Why?
Employees are now using their own personal devices to ensure smooth operations but the communication is taking place outside company firewalls. Handling large electronic files or corporate accounts on the unprotected device is vulnerable to cyberattacks as no IT team is there to ensure protection.
How to ensure safety? Here’s what SMEs need to do:
- Tell your employees to avoid downloading third-party software.
- Sign up for two-factor authentication. This way you will be notified via email if someone tries to hack into your system.
- Save your files on the cloud.
- Tell your employees to change to default credentials on their home router and update the firmware.
- Lastly, train your employees on the most common cybersecurity dangers such as phishing.
Ø Lack of Awareness
Many SMBs do not have the financial muscle to invest in cybersecurity teams and that leads to even basic awareness. SMBs are mostly busy in handling daily operations for smooth continuity by addressing financial issues and the livelihood of their workforce.
My recommendation for these companies is to invest in a VPN which is budget-friendly.
How does it work?
The VPN on your system connects with a VPN server by building a proxy tunnel in the process, along these lines all the information is directed through this tunnel and all the correspondence is taken care of by the VPN server.
Subsequently, a VPN can make encoded private tunnels, henceforth the information being moved to and fro on various servers makes it incomprehensible for anybody to understand.
Alternatively, for businesses in need of a remote working solution should look for VPN alternatives, for easy, secure remote access.
The attacks won’t stop! It all comes down to how serious you are about your business. Cybersecurity can save SMEs from these threats as long as proper measures are taken.
Sebastian Riley is a cybersecurity specialist at TheVPNExperts trying hard to battle online control. Sebastian is likewise an enthusiastic essayist and speaker who appreciates investing his energy instructing individuals about developing cybersecurity dangers.