Small Businesses Face Three Times As Many Cyber Attacks As Larger Enterprises

hackers attempting to hack businesses

It’s a common misconception among small business owners that they are immune to cyberattacks due to their size or perceived lack of valuable assets. However, a recent report by cybersecurity firm Barracuda Networks dispels this myth. By analyzing millions of emails across thousands of organizations, the report reveals that small companies are indeed vulnerable to cyber threats and have a lot to be concerned about regarding their IT security.

According to Barracuda Networks’ findings, employees at small companies experience a staggering 350% increase in social engineering attacks compared to those at larger organizations. For the purpose of their study, Barracuda Networks defines a small company as one with fewer than 100 employees. This heightened susceptibility places small businesses at a significantly higher risk of falling victim to cyberattacks. Let’s delve into the reasons behind this heightened risk below.

What Factors Contribute to Smaller Companies Being Targeted More Frequently?

There are many reasons why hackers see small businesses as low-hanging fruit. And why they are becoming larger targets of hackers out to score a quick illicit buck.

Smaller Enterprises Typically Allocate Less Budget Towards Cybersecurity Measures.

Small companies often allocate less of their budget to cybersecurity. When managing a small business, it’s a constant balancing act deciding where to prioritize spending. While recognizing the importance of cybersecurity, it may not be given top priority. Consequently, when funds run low towards the end of the month, investments in cybersecurity often get deferred to the “next month” wish list of expenditures.

Leaders of small businesses frequently don’t allocate as much funding as necessary to IT security. They might purchase an antivirus program and believe that’s sufficient protection. However, with the increasing reliance on technology and the expansion of cloud services, antivirus alone is just one small part of a comprehensive security strategy. Additional layers of security are needed for adequate protection.

Hackers are aware of these tendencies and view small businesses as easier targets. They realize they can achieve their goals with far less effort by targeting small businesses than by attempting to breach large corporations.

Each Business Possesses Resources That Are Susceptible to Hacking.

Every business, even a 1-person shop, has data that’s worth scoring for a hacker. Credit card numbers, SSNs, tax ID numbers, and email addresses are all valuable. Cybercriminals can sell these on the Dark Web. From there, other criminals use them for identity theft.

Here are some of the data that hackers will go after:

  • Customer recordsCustomer records contain personal information like names, addresses, phone numbers, and sometimes even more sensitive data like birth dates or purchase history. This information can be used for targeted phishing attacks or sold to other parties for malicious purposes.
  • Employee recordsEmployee records typically include personal details such as names, addresses, social security numbers, and sometimes even bank account information for payroll purposes. Hackers target this data for identity theft or to gain access to company systems through compromised employee accounts.
  • Bank account informationThis includes details such as bank account numbers, routing numbers, and account holder information. Access to this data can facilitate fraudulent transactions, unauthorized withdrawals, or even complete account takeovers.
  • Emails and passwordsEmail addresses and associated passwords are highly valuable to hackers because they provide access to a multitude of online accounts. Once hackers obtain this information, they can attempt to log in to various platforms, potentially gaining access to sensitive data, financial information, or even conducting further attacks by impersonating the account holders.
  • Payment card detailsPayment card details consist of credit card numbers, expiration dates, and security codes. This information is used by cybercriminals to make unauthorized purchases or to clone cards for fraudulent activities. It’s highly sought after on the dark web due to its direct monetary value.

Smaller Businesses Can Serve As Entry Points Into Larger Ones.

Small businesses can serve as gateways to larger ones for hackers. When a hacker successfully breaches the network of a small business, it can lead to a more significant payoff. Many smaller companies provide services to larger corporations, such as digital marketing, website management, accounting, and various other functions.

Vendors often have digital connections to specific client systems. This interconnectedness can facilitate a breach that affects multiple companies. Although hackers don’t necessarily require this connection to target a small business, it serves as a valuable bonus. By compromising a small business, hackers can effectively gain access to two companies’ systems for the effort of breaching just one.

Small business Proprietors Frequently Lack Readiness For Ransomware Attacks.

Small business owners are frequently caught off guard by ransomware attacks. Ransomware has emerged as one of the most rapidly growing cyber threats in recent years. In 2022 alone, over 71% of surveyed organizations fell victim to ransomware attacks.

The proportion of victims who opt to pay the ransom to attackers has also been on the rise. Currently, an average of 63% of companies choose to pay the attacker’s demands in the hope of receiving a decryption key to unlock their files.

Even though hackers may not extract as hefty a ransom from a small business as they would from a larger organization, it’s still worthwhile for them. They often find it easier to breach multiple small companies compared to larger ones.

When companies give in to the ransom demands, it only serves to strengthen the cybercriminal ecosystem. This encourages more bad actors to participate in ransomware attacks. Furthermore, those who are new to ransomware attacks often target smaller businesses that are perceived as easier to infiltrate.

Employees in Smaller Companies Often Lack Cybersecurity Training.

Employees at smaller companies often lack adequate training in cybersecurity. This is because cybersecurity training is typically not a high priority for small business owners. They may be focused on other pressing matters such as retaining talented staff and ensuring smooth sales and operations.

Continuous training on cybersecurity practices, such as identifying phishing attempts and adhering to password best practices, often falls by the wayside. Consequently, small businesses’ networks remain vulnerable to one of the most significant threats: human error.

In many cyberattacks, hackers rely on assistance from a user to gain access to a network. It’s akin to a vampire needing an invitation from an unsuspecting victim to enter a home. Phishing emails serve as the tool used to solicit this unwitting cooperation. Without proper training, employees are more likely to fall victim to these tactics, inadvertently aiding hackers in their malicious activities.

“Phishing Attacks Account for Over 80% of Data Breaches, Highlighting Urgent Cybersecurity Needs”

Phishing is responsible for over 80% of data breaches. When a phishing email lands in an inbox, it typically remains harmless until a user takes action. This action usually involves opening a file attachment or clicking a link that directs them to a malicious website, thereby initiating the attack.

Educating employees on how to recognize these deceptive tactics can greatly enhance cybersecurity defenses. Security awareness training holds equal importance to investing in robust firewall protection or antivirus software. By empowering employees to identify and avoid phishing attempts, businesses can significantly reduce their vulnerability to cyber threats and safeguard sensitive data.


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