Up until recently, most people were relatively disinterested in the topic of cyber-security. Even many small business owners took little to no interest in their own security outside of basic protocols and policies. This was not necessarily because people did not care about their own security; most just felt as though they were too unimportant to be targeted and that hackers would be uninterested in average individuals or small businesses.

If you still believe that to be the case, you must have been living under a rock for the last year or so. Cyber attacks have increased in scale and sophistication, but they have also increased in frequency. The WannaCry ransomware event from earlier this year was the largest cyber attack in history, impacting over 200,000 devices in 150 countries including hospitals in the UK, a large telecom corporation in Spain, FedEx in the US and even the Russian government.

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Recent Events

It seems as though cyber attacks occur every day, with a variety of targets ranging from governments to banks to entertainment companies. Most recently, the systems of HBO were infiltrated with hackers threatening to leak scripts for the upcoming programs. While we all hate having to wait another week to find out what happens next to Jon Snow, these attacks are only indicators of a larger problem. Not to mention that these are only the ones large enough to make national news.

Small Crime

Every day, thousands of businesses are at risk and vulnerable to cyber attacks, no matter their size, status or industry. Although traditional wisdom may tell you that the attackers would seek one large score from a major corporation, it’s actually not the case at all. The majority of modern cyber-criminals would prefer to extort or steal from several smaller companies with less security and higher rates of success.

Additionally, smaller companies may have less experience with these types of security risks and fewer resources to deal with them, and they are more likely to give into demands quickly. This also carries less risk for the criminals, as penalties, publicity and pursuit from authorities may not be as extreme with smaller attacks. Cyber-crime is not like bank robbery; criminals can gain access to just as much valuable information and extort as high of a ransom from a small company as they could from a large corporation.

Combating Attacks

Ransomware and other weapons of cyber-crime are becoming more complex and wide-spread every day. A criminal can now purchase the software necessary to extort money from a small business and download it directly from the internet, meaning that it does not take a brilliant hacker to infiltrate your systems.

Prevention will be the key to combating cyber-crime on a small business level. Every small business owner should educate him or herself about the basics of security including regular software updates, MFA authentication, data backups and similar elements. In addition, every business should have up-to-date policies in place and regular cyber-security training for all employees, even those who do not deal directly with sensitive information.

If your company has already been the victim of an attack, you should immediately contact your security specialists and the proper authorities. Criminals will almost certainly threaten to destroy or release your data if you do, but this could happen either way. Even if you give into attackers’ demands, there is no guarantee that you will get all of your information back whole, and there is nothing stopping them from making the very same attack again.

Unfortunately, most victims do not regain everything that was stolen, and preventing an attack can be much simpler, easier and more beneficial than fighting one after the fact.
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