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Small businesses have a 'false sense of security' regarding cyberthreats


While cyberattacks on large corporations are more likely to grab headlines than those perpetrated on smaller businesses, small- and medium-sized firms are still vulnerable to Internet and mobile threats, even more so than big enterprises, according to Infosecurity Magazine. A recent study by Symantec revealed small businesses with one to 250 employees experienced 31 percent of all cyberattacks in 2012. The number of small firms hit by cybercriminals has actually increased from previous years, up from 18 percent in 2011, according to Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report 2013. While small businesses may feel safe from cyberattacks, they may not actually know their systems have been infiltrated.

"Cyberattacks on small businesses rarely make headlines, so it is easy for these business owners to be lulled into a false sense of security, as indicated in this survey," said Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., Chairman of the U.S. House Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology, in a statement issued with a survey by McAfee.

It may be harder for small businesses to recover from cyberattacks because they do not have the money or technology needed to mitigate the damage. Earlier this year during a hearing to evaluate cyberattacks on small businesses, Collins said attacks targeting the intellectual property and financial information of small businesses could hinder firms. The threat of cyberattacks is also growing with new cloud and mobile technologies.

With small businesses facing more cyberattacks, the U.S. Small Business Administration offered tips for protection, according to Baltimore Business Journal.

Create cybersecurity policies
By establishing guidelines for how employees use computers, mobile devices and other portals to the Internet, companies can help prevent the risk of downloading malware, misusing data and other ways workers can lower business security. Firms should set penalties for workers who violate these policies.

Install antivirus software
Antivirus and antimalware software should be one of the first defenses against cyberattacks that businesses implement. Computers equipped with this software should be regularly updated in order to properly protect against new malware or viruses. Some of this software is free to use, helping save companies money in the long run.

Train workers on how to safeguard data
Another risk businesses face is not properly safeguarding data from competitors in addition to cyberattackers. Employees should be trained on how to not reveal trade secrets on public forums such as social media sites in order to keep their businesses competitive. Workers should also be educated on practices - email protocol or etiquette - to avoid an internal data breach.

As businesses may not have the technology or resources to adequately protect themselves, business insurance is a crucial safety net to have. Professional liability insurance that covers cyber-related risks can help prevent cyberattacks from shutting down businesses by helping to pay for remediation costs.

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