It’s a common misconception that hackers only target international corporations or large Fortune 500 companies. In 2020 alone, news outlets reported that Zoom, Twitter, Nintendo, and EasyJet all experienced forms of online attacks. However, this doesn’t provide an accurate representation of attacks on online businesses.
While well-known names make the headlines, hackers don’t discriminate; indeed, they target small to mid-sized online stores as frequently as their behemoth counterparts. In fact, the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report indicated that up to 43% of all data breaches happen to small businesses. A 2019 research report by Keeper Security and the Ponemon Institute confirmed that the number of small to mid-sized online stores that fell victim to data breaches grew to 63% in 2019; in comparison, this figure was 58% in 2018, and 54% in 2017.
A more recent Magecart attack, CardBleed, impacted an access of 3000 online businesses. This attack ravaged a diverse range of industries - from big corporations to the smallest online shops. The hits on small businesses may not make the news, but this doesn’t make them immune to the destructive effects of data breaches.
Online Security Threats to Small Businesses
Unfortunately, hackers often favor small businesses because they correctly assume that smaller online stores lack established, robust security measures that protect them against a variety of attacks. Small business owners may opt for minimum protection for budgetary reasons, or because they believe their size makes them invisible to attackers. Without a doubt, large corporations will likely spend more on online security when compared to their smaller counterparts. However, the belief that small businesses fly below the radar of hackers makes them particularly vulnerable.
Attackers may target small businesses because:
Small businesses also store customers’ personal identifiable information, including payment information.
Small businesses also process financial transactions, which presents a golden opportunity for attacks during the checkout process.
Small businesses also hold valuable intellectual property, which may be worth more than customer data.
Best Practice for Online Security
In the sobering light of tangible threat to small online businesses, how can online merchants arm themselves against attacks?
It all begins with altering both your approach to online security and your perception. Indeed, a plethora of companies offer tools to protect against online attacks, but in order to utilize a tool correctly, you first need to develop a proactive approach to online security within your business.
Develop a Security-Centric Culture
Investing in online security requires more than implementing a program and forgetting about it. Businesses, and especially merchants, need to develop a security-first culture in their business, from customer service, to management, to programmers.
The potential aftermath of a data breach may be catastrophic for any business, but especially small businesses. Therefore, instilling a sense of priority for online security is paramount. Encourage your employees by incentivizing them to follow security measures, rather than scaring them with the potential pitfalls of errors.
Creating a culture of online security takes time and effort on your part; sustain your practice through regular check-ins with your employees, open dialogue around security protocols, and establishing a structure for employees to easily ask questions and learn more about online security. By proactively cultivating a security-focused culture in your business, you arm every employee with the skills and knowledge to put security first.
Create a Security Strategy
Like any business goal, a concrete security structure for your business won’t be built in a single day. Establish a strategy to reach your security objectives over time, with a few essential mile markers along the way.
First, institute a security framework for your business, which concisely defines the roles, responsibilities, and chain of management around your security protocols. This framework should outline your long-term, strategic response to online security, both in defensive and offensive mode. This framework should ideally include things like security policies, technical measures and tools, audits, and assessments. Make sure to investigate legislation and laws that pertain to your business and to your customers’ private data to guarantee that you are protected in case of a data breach.
With your framework established, you’ll gain the assurance that you’ve decreased security risk by implementing controls to prevent attacks. A proper security framework ensures that your security measures are aligned with your business priorities and consistent with external laws and regulations.
Invest in Your Employees
It’s easy for merchants to neglect the most important factor in their security protocols - their employees. After all, your online security measures depend on the people operating your business daily. Invest time, effort, and money in online security awareness training to keep your employees engaged and knowledgeable in all areas related to online security.
A growing number of breaches occur due to human error, which makes security training an essential measure that should be carried out routinely for the long term.
Acquire a Good Set of Tools
Your security-centric culture, security strategy, and knowledgeable employees provide a strong foundation for your business against security threats. However, the growing creativity of hackers today means that it’s a good idea to invest in the latest technological tools to secure your online business. Think of it this way - hackers utilize the newest technology constantly and actively in order to break into your business. Don’t make it easy for them!
A multi-layered approach to online security will provide your business the best protection, which will make it more difficult for attackers to breach your systems. A few common tools to safeguard your business include:
Web application firewall
Content delivery network (CDN) to defend against distributed denial-of-service attacks
Intrusion detection system
Log manager system
Vulnerability scanning assessment
Weak password detection
Security reporting dashboards
For the best results, use the above mentioned tools collectively.
While these tools certainly will help bolster your security, keep in mind that some of the world’s largest corporations have fallen prey to hackers. That’s why it’s essential to pair your suite of innovative tools with a solid culture of security consciousness among your employees. This comprehensive approach to online security will produce the best results for your online business and provide you with peace of mind.
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