small businesses

By Todd Bryant

Is your small business protected from cyberattacks? Now, with the help of the Federal Trade Commission, you can get all the facts about protecting yourself, in one place. A new website from the FTC has everything small businesses need to know to protect themselves from security threats and online scammers.

Overview of Cyberattack Threats

With everything that small businesses have to worry about, it’s easy to let cybersecurity fall through the cracks. On the other hand, small businesses are targeted by cyber criminals more than ever. According to one cybersecurity firm, the share of spear-phishing attacks (usually fraudulent emails) that target small businesses rose tremendously from 2011 to 2015, from 18% to a staggering 43%.

Attackers have also gotten more creative and clever in the past decade, using elaborate phishing scams or even ransomware to swindle businesses. What’s more, up to 60% of small businesses who are attacked end up shutting their doors as a direct result of the cyberattack. This makes cyberattacks a threat that no small business can afford to ignore.

With those odds, the FTC’s recent site launch has arrived just in time. The new site includes all the most up-to-date information for small businesses, about how to protect themselves from scammers and hackers.

What to Look out For

Roughly, there are two major categories of cyberattacks that small-business owners should look out for: security breaches, and scams. The new site covers both categories in-depth. Security breaches usually involve stealing from a company, using coding or hacking techniques to “sneak” access to your important information. The FTC’s new site for small businesses includes advice about how to beef up your online security, to keep the hackers out. Plus, they’ve got tips on what you can do if your– or your clients’– information is accessed illicitly.

The second category of cyberattacks is a bit more “low-tech,” but sometimes trickier to spot: scams. Scams use plain old fraud to get small-business owners to hand over data, or even money. Common scams involve tricking businesses into paying for things they didn’t order, or into divulging data that hackers can then use for more serious cyberattacks. Protecting your small business from scams takes equal parts common sense, tech-savviness, and due diligence.

The FTC’s new guide includes extensive, free training tools that business owners can peruse, and use to train employees. These include e-books, blog posts, and even videos.

Particularly when it comes to scams, employee error is one of the most common ways that scammers get access to businesses. Even smart, tech-savvy workers can make these mistakes. Plus, scammers and hackers are constantly inventing new approaches, making cybersecurity an ongoing project of training and adaptation. Spear-phishing, for example, describes the technique of sending an email that looks like it comes from a trusted source, with links or requests for information that will compromise your business.

The new guidelines from the FTC can help small business owners craft a cybersecurity game-plan, so everyone on the team knows exactly how to handle the threat.

How Cyberattacks Hurt Everyone

In many cases, cyberattacks hurt not only businesses, but their clients. Hackers often use the data they steal from businesses to attack consumers directly. Consumers are becoming more and more wary of how companies’ are protecting them, and their information, from online threats. This means that protecting your business isn’t just a matter of your own safety and property, but also your reputation and trustworthiness. A company’s cybersecurity strategy indicates that they’re safe to do business with.

And in some cases, being negligent with your customer’s data can lead to other negative consequences such as claims against their surety bonds, a licensing requirement for some businesses, intended to protect the interest of their clients.

Since cyberattackers are constantly evolving, small businesses must also be continually improving their approach to cybersecurity. The FTC’s new site for small businesses seeks to help small business owners protect themselves, by providing the most current and credible information all in one spot.

Have you had experience with online hackers or scammers threatening your business? How do you protect yourself?

Todd Bryant is the president and founder of Bryant Surety Bonds. He is a surety bonds expert with years of experience in helping business owners get bonded and start their business.