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How to Keep a Small Business Safe: Combating Cyber Crime on a Budget

WHAT HAPPENS ON MAIN STREET STAYS ON MAINSTREET

When hackers breach the security of corporations it makes headlines, yet there is rarely a mention when cybercrime hits small to medium sized businesses (SMBs). Very few people are even aware that today’s cyber crime is targeting SMBs, not just super sized global businesses. According to Verizon’s 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report, 71% of the data breaches investigated by the company’s forensic analysis unit targeted small businesses with fewer than 100 employees. Of that group, businesses with less than 10 employees were the most frequently attacked.

EVERYONE IS A VICTIM WHEN IT COMES TO CYBER CRIME

The loss and exposure of confidential data from a cyber attack is costly to both the people and the businesses whose data was compromised. For the victim, hackers typically retrieve personal information, bank account, credit card and social security numbers, resulting in identity fraud. The stress and time involved to reclaim their identity and get their financial house back in order is beyond measure. For businesses, there are 47 state-specific DBN (Data Breech Notification) laws in effect in the United States. Adding to the complexity and costs of this process is the fact that laws and compliance obligations vary from state to state. A breach of customer data in Pennsylvania will have different breach notification and follow up requirements than a breach involving a customer in Massachusetts. This means firms servicing customers and clients from more than one state are responsible for these duplicative legal, regulatory and compliance burdens.

SMALL BUSINESSES PAY A HIGH PRICE FOR CYBER CRIME

According to research compiled by the Ponemon Institute in their 2nd Annual Cost of Cyber Crime Study, the average cost per breached record in the U.S. is anywhere between $150 to $200. This amount factors in the costs of the investigation and notification process, fixing the issue that led to the breach, possible liability and litigation costs, lost business, and the time and effort that go into damage control. In many cases, a damaged reputation may prove to be irreparable. Nearly two-thirds of victimized companies are out of business within six months of a significant cyber attack, making cybercrime the death knell for many SMBs. This is because the consequences of cybercrime extend well beyond the actual incident and have long-lasting implications. Small businesses obviously don’t have the same financial footing to rebound and carry on with business as usual in the way organizations like Target, Amazon, Apple or Citibank can. Symantec’s research found that customers affected by security breaches are generally less forgiving of smaller businesses, especially smaller online retailers, than larger companies. SMBs are contending not only with lost revenue and expenses, but also the possibility of never regaining the trust of customers, clients and business partners. Symantec’s 2012 State of Information Survey found that nearly half of all SMBs admitted to a data breach damaging their reputation and driving customers away.

The trend of cyber crime preying on smaller businesses doesn’t seem to be waning. According to Symantec, the number of cybercrime attacks targeting firms with fewer than 250 employees jumped from 18 percent of all attacks in 2011 to 31 percent in 2012.

That was 6 years ago and the numbers have only gone up from there. Just last year, according to The Guardian, it was estimated that cyber attacks cost small businesses around 50 million dollars. A report done by McAfee showed that almost 90% of small and medium size businesses in the US do not use data protection for company and customer information.

Don't be one of those businesses. See how you can secure your sensitive information now without having to blow your entire budget.

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