Image courtesy of (Stuart Miles) /

Image courtesy of (Stuart Miles) /

“Cyber-threats will continue to grow exponentially in volume, complexity, and threat vectors,” Vijilan Security chief sales and marketing officer Gary Mullen recently stated.

As 2016 sees scads of economic and technological advancements, cyber-threats will increase too. There’s just no doubt about it.

Cyber-crimes and security breaches ran amuck in 2015. Corporate victims of such circumstances included Target, Home Depot, Ashley Madison, Sony Pictures and even the White House. With such massive entities falling prey to hackers, it would seem that no one is impermeable. What is less reported on, however, is that these behemoths are in the minority; 71 percent of security breaches target small businesses according to IDC’s 2014 – 2018 forecast report.

The only reason that larger companies receive such attention in light of an attack is because of their high-profile status in the public eye. While every company needs to know how to guard against digital threats, smaller organizations are the ones that need to pay the most attention. Cyber-attacks ultimately cost businesses upward of $400 billion dollars a year. Most small businesses simply can’t afford to contribute to this number and expect to survive.

As cyber criminals continue to actively target smaller enterprises this year, here are the top three trends that business owners must be aware of.

1. IoT Becomes a Hacker’s Paradise

For those that are unfamiliar, IoT stand for Internet of Things. This is essentially a private network in which all of your devices, ranging from laptops to phones, printers and watches, are connected and controlled. While the emergence of this technology is exciting as it makes management and maintenance of various tasks, documents, and so forth increasingly easier, it also poses a major security risk.

As the technology is still relatively new, much like many new technologies, security has not been a focal point. While a business computer may be secure, any number of connected devices may not have proper security features, which allows for the networks to be accessed with ease. Combine that with the fact that Pryvate, a mobile messaging security firm, recently revealed 29 percent of U.S. consumers share work sensitive data over mobile devices at least once a week, and you have a recipe for potential disaster.

Of course, as IoT technology matures security will become more understood and will be more accurately addressed. In the meantime, however, if you do plan to integrate this tech, be sure to do it slowly, ensure that employees understand its potential ramifications and seek out new security features to help protect against intrusion.

2. Ransomware on the Rise

Ransomware is a form of malware infection where hackers will obtain control of a device and lock the user out, demanding a ransom to be paid in Bitcoin. Otherwise, the device’s data will be forever locked, or worse yet, deleted. It appears that this type of code is also beginning to have the ability to take hold of entire websites, making not only the company’s files inaccessible, but threatening every person that comes into contact with that site.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, CryptoWall is the most prevalent ransomware infecting small businesses and that between April 2014 and June 2015, the agency collected 992 “CryptoWall-related complaints” totaling more than $18 million in losses for the victims. The frequency of these types of attacks is only set to increase in 2016 as new and progressively clever ways of infiltration are realized. The threat of ransomware ranges from devices to the cloud so it is imperative that business owners ensure that security awareness is deeply integrated into company culture to reduce the risk of employees inadvertently allowing access. Backups of all critical data should also be made and stored in a separate, secure location.

3. Small Businesses Are More At Risk than Ever

Through all of this, you may be wondering why hackers are so fixated on small businesses as opposed to larger corporations that house more information, more assets, and ultimately more value. The reason is simple: They are easier targets to take down. Many small business owners tend to either ignore or are oblivious to security threats, their warning signs, and how to be proactive about protecting their data and assets.

Small businesses often store personal information about consumers that can be hijacked and sold to underground black markets. And while these numbers may not be staggering for hackers, the practice is still more lucrative than going after people individually. Furthermore, small businesses often do not have the maturity and resources to employ advanced cyber-security tools, tactics, and safeguards. That minimal amount of protection makes small businesses a hacker’s ideal target. To help minimize this threat, smaller companies should take a simple ‘ABC’ approach to security:

  • Assess: Know what assets, resources and risks need to be protected;
  • Build: An organizational security policy to be prioritized through leadership;
  • Control: Establish the tools and control systems most suited to your organization and security blueprint;
  • Deploy: Implement the tools;
  • Educate: Ensure employees and executives understand the policy and are aware that security is everyone’s responsibility;
  • Further: Continue to assess new security trends, conduct tests, and further integrate more powerful tactics in cyber-security.

Cyber-security is not to be taken lightly. Either you or a competitor of yours will likely be hacked this year. In order to prevent or minimize the damage, it is crucial to implement security best practices, use industry-leading tools like FireEye for dynamic threat protection, and understand that cyber-security is something that must constantly be monitored and advanced through a perpetual process of assessment, adjustment, and implementation. Don’t stress about doing this perfectly; if you’re employing more than the average small business to protect yourself, you won’t be an easy target. Since there are so many that do nothing to protect themselves, a little security can go a long way.

What are your biggest concerns with cyber security?

By in Business Featured Security Technology