On both an individual and commercial level, the looming threat of cyberattacks is a constant danger for everyone. It is not a secret that no one is truly safe on the internet if they are not taking the due precautions, and yet, hundreds of millions of people fall victim to cyberattacks every year. While some may blame the victims of cybercrime for not taking protective actions beforehand, that isn’t always true, nor is it that simple.
100% Protection is a Myth
First and foremost, nothing works 100% of the time, and secondly, the average citizen cannot be called out for not being able to detect and avoid every online hack and scam they might face. If some of the world’s biggest conglomerates such as Microsoft, Volkswagen, and Facebook can be breached, do individuals really stand a chance?
Thankfully, the answer is yes, individuals do stand a good chance at fending off most cyberattacks by taking precautionary measures. This does not mean that even the most aware and well protected individual cannot be hacked, but that is very unlikely to happen. As to why that is very unlikely to happen, let’s find out.
Cybercriminals Worry about Returns Too!
Facebook and Microsoft Exchange servers were not breached in a day. Those hacks required dedicated, constant attacks from numerous sources that were backed by international powers. Unless the individual is someone of great importance, or of personal interest to someone with tremendous resources, breaking into a well-protected individual account would require far too much of the hacker group’s resources in comparison to the potential “returns” that they are likely to get from their “investments.” Note that even if a local group with average resources attempts to break into an aware and careful user’s online or on-device accounts for any reason, their chances of success will be exceptionally low, if not almost nonexistent.
Why It is More Difficult to Hack a Careful Individual than a Careful Company
As explained, the effort which would be required to do so on an individual level is not worth it for hackers, unless the target is a person of exceptional interest. However, there is also another fact which favors the careful individual but does not bode well for companies of any size or stature.
A cautious individual only needs to secure the access points they personally use, which in most cases are just three to five. A company, on the other hand, will need to constantly secure their system against attacks that may come from any of the access points. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Connected office electronics
- Personal electronics used by remote employees to access the system
- Access points created for customers to interact with the system
- Access points created for software service providers
Stats Show Smaller Companies are Best Targets for Cybercriminals
It is a common myth that a business is too small for hackers to be interested in breaching them. In fact, that is the first and the most prevalent reason as to why so many small businesses get hacked every year. Let’s look at some facts first. In the year 2021, the following were published as statistical facts by CNBC:
- 43% of all cyberattacks were exclusively targeting small companies.
- Depending on the kind of attack, companies (of all sizes) will end up suffering damages between $200,000 – $3.5 million on an average.
- Only 14% of small companies that were attacked had an effective countermeasure in place.
If we look at a multiyear report published by the National Cyber Security Alliance, it states that about 60% of small businesses go bankrupt within six months or less from the date of their inception. As readers may have guessed, the cause in every one of the cited cases is a successful hack or breach.
Although it may seem slightly dated at this point, the SMB Cyberthreat Study of 2019 was a sign of things to come. In one of the report’s many findings, it was stated that about 66% of small business owners and senior executives are of the opinion that their companies will not be targeted by hackers. The relevance of that finding can still be observed if we look at some of the stats highlighted earlier in the post.
Only 14% of the small companies were prepared to fend off serious cyberattacks. This means that 86% of the targeted and attacked small businesses did not have the necessary infrastructure in cybersecurity to prevent hacks, which is clearly connected to the SMB Cyberthreat Study of 2019 report that came out much earlier.
If a large number of senior executives, decision makers and business owners failed to take the threat of cybersecurity to their own respective organizations with any degree of professional seriousness in 2019, it’s easy to connect the dots and realize why 86% of the attacked small companies were inadequately prepared to defend themselves.
How is Hacking or Breaching a Small Company Lucrative for Cybercriminals?
Since we already learned that a majority of all small companies don’t even have any proper cybersecurity protocol in place to prevent serious attacks, it should not be too difficult to understand why small – medium sized companies are ideally suited for hackers to attack. However, there is more to it than just that.
It is somewhat more resource intensive for hacking groups to breach even companies that have placed a half-hearted cybersecurity protocol in place. However, hackers will gladly channel the resources needed to breach through. The thing is, in comparison to the average individual, even the average small US company is worth a lot more.
On top of that, an outdated, poor, or incomplete cybersecurity plan is fairly easy to breach for professional cybercriminals. Instead of wasting time and risking their own security trying to hack the big enterprises who have their own hackers to protect them and even strike back, it is much more profitable for hacking groups to target multiple small – medium sized businesses. Most of them have no relevant protection whatsoever and some are just inadequately protected in proportion to the looming threat that these hackers pose.
As for the very few small businesses that do take their cybersecurity seriously enough, the hacking attempts are not likely to succeed. Regular cybercriminals will not waste time trying to hack a system which is properly protected, and the large hacking groups have no reason or incentive to waste any more resources on trying to hack a small company, beyond what they consider to be justifiable. At the end of the day, organized crime is a business and wasting time trying to breach through a nigh-unbreachable small business’s system is just not a profitable venture for them!
How Can Small Businesses Create a Secured Digital Infrastructure?
Ironically, a large section of the IT industry has a very poor success rate when it comes to defending themselves against targeted hacking attempts. This shows us that just because a company is working in IT, it does not mean they are cybersecurity experts with enough knowledge, training, and skills to counter enterprise-grade cyberthreats. To be able to do that, all companies need to work with actual cybersecurity specialists, aka white hat hackers to keep their systems protected and prepared for both random and targeted attacks.
It does not really matter whether the company in a hacker’s sight works in information technology, investment banking, or the restaurant industry. What really matters is how competent the cybersecurity team in charge of keeping the company secured is. If you have a business of your own, or in case you wish to join the industry as a cybersecurity professional, get to know these 10 professional cybersecurity tools well.
What are Some of the General Measures Any Company Can Take Against Cyberthreats?
Awareness is key and that awareness must be spread with great seriousness, throughout the staff on a regular basis. Even very basic cybersafety practices such as frequently changing passwords, logging out before leaving a session, blocking system access to all unregistered devices, etc., should be turned into company policies. Holding urgent meetings to make necessary and emergency announcements should also be a seamless process.
Awareness about the hacks and scams, in addition to how they are used to hack/breach company systems is also equally important knowledge for employees and executives alike. As of mid-2022, phishing, ransomware, DDoS, XSS, Zero-Day, SQL Injections, and MitM are the biggest threats to business system security, irrespective of their size or scale. If you wish to know more about the attacks, as well as some very specific prevention measures, check out this article.
It must be recognized that general safety measures can only be effective if they are backed up by a reliable, up-to-date, infrastructure for cybersecurity. Short of hiring professionals to help them, it would be impossible for any company to do so. The only exceptions would be the cybersecurity companies themselves for obvious reasons, but it is not uncommon to find a few of them getting hacked every year as well, unfortunately.