Cybersecurity: A Small Business Guide

Online threats are on everyone’s minds after this week’s breach at OneLogin. The identity and access management company with over 2,000 enterprise clients was hacked, and the fallout isn’t over. During the security breach, private information about users, apps, and various keys may have been obtained by the still unknown hackers. All we currently know is what OneLogin has announced on their company blog: data may have been collected and the hacker or hackers may have figured out a way to decrypt data.

If you’re not sure what all this means you’re not alone, many entrepreneurs don’t realize that small businesses are just as at risk for cyberattacks as larger companies, but they are. According to a report by Keeper Security and the Ponemon Institute, 50 percent of small businesses have been breached in the past 12 months.

Here’s an overview of everything you need to know to protect your business.

While breaches at big corporations such as Target and Home Depot make the headlines, small business are still very much targets for hackers. Stephen Cobb, a senior security researcher at antivirus software company ESET, said that small businesses fall into hackers’ cybersecurity “sweet spot:” They have more digital assets to target than an individual consumer has, but less security than a larger enterprise.

The other reason small businesses make such appealing targets is because hackers know these companies are less careful about security. An infographic by Towergate Insurance showed that small businesses often underestimate their risk level, with 82 percent of small business owners saying they’re not targets for attacks, because they don’t have anything worth stealing. [See Related Story: Cyberattack Risks Remain a Threat to Businesses Despite Insurance]

In almost every case, the end goal of a cyberattack is to steal and exploit sensitive data, whether it’s customer credit-card information or a person’s credentials, which would be used to misuse the individual’s identity online.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of potential cyberthreats, especially as hackers’ techniques continue to evolve, but businesses should at least be aware of the most frequently used attacks.

APT: Advanced persistent threats, or APTs, are long-term targeted attacks that break into a network in multiple phases to avoid detection. This Symantec infographic outlined the five stages of an APT.

DDoS: An acronym for distributed denial of service, DDoS attacks occur when a server is intentionally overloaded with requests, with the goal of shutting down the target’s website or network system.

Inside attack: This is when someone with administrative privileges, usually from within the organization, purposely misuses his or her credentials to gain access to confidential company information. Former employees, in particular, present a threat if they left the company on bad terms, so your business should have a protocol in place to revoke all access to company data immediately upon an employee’s termination.

Malware: This umbrella term is short for “malicious software,” and covers any program introduced into the target’s computer with the intent to cause damage or gain unauthorized access. More about the different varieties of malware can be found on How to Geek. Business News Daily’s sister site Tom’s Guide also breaks down the myths and facts of malware.

Password attacks: There are three main types of password attacks: a brute-force attack, which involves guessing at passwords until the hacker gets in; a dictionary attack, which uses a program to try different combinations of dictionary words; and keylogging, which tracks all of a user’s keystrokes, including login IDs and passwords. More about each type of attack (and how to avoid them) can be found in this Scorpion Software blog post.

Phishing: Perhaps the most commonly deployed form of cybertheft, phishing involves collecting sensitive information like login credentials and credit-card information through a legitimate-looking (but ultimately fraudulent) website, often sent to unsuspecting individuals in an email. Keeper Security and the Ponemon Institute reported that the most prevalent attacks against SMBs are web-based and phishing/social engineering. TechRepublic shared 10 signs to help you spot a phishing email.

Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of malware that infects your machine and, as the name suggests, demands a ransome. Typically ransomware will either lock you out of your computer and demand money in return for access or threaten to publish private information if you don’t pay a specified amount. Ransomware is one of the fastest growing types of security breaches.