Many small and midsize businesses believe their size makes them a low priority for cybercriminals, but they can in fact be attractive targets for several reasons.
For one, while they often have access or data that is attractive to cybercriminals, they typically utilize only a small amount of protection. In addition, today’s media is likely to ignore attacks against the SMB, focusing instead on higher-profile breaches. SMBs are also generally not in a position to spend a lot of time or resources responding to an attack, and if there’s ransomware involved, they will often pay up rather than risk losing their data—and this makes them even more attractive.
Increased technology adoption among SMBs has made them bigger targets for hackers as well. It’s much easier for SMBs to deploy online sales, mobile POS, customer loyalty cards, and other types of technologies. That has increased the amount of potentially valuable customer and payment data SMBs handle and store.
For managed service providers working with these companies, security should be top of mind. SMBs require education to help ensure they are aware of the nature of the threats their businesses face and an intelligent approach to crafting a security solution that fits with their limited IT resources, time, and budgets. Those strategies should include:
- Helping your SMB customers understand the types of data stored in their systems, why it might be a target, and how to protect it.
- Working with them to establish a data breach response plan. The plan should include obvious elements like data backup and recovery, but also a communication plan in case customer data is compromised.
- Encouraging them to purchase cyber-liability insurance, which could mean the difference between weathering an attack or going out of business.
- Helping them understand the limits of anti-virus protection. Many SMBs think that because they have deployed an anti-virus solution, they are done and can relax. But today’s threats require a more robust security solution that takes a layered approach and includes intelligent threat detection, email protection, monitoring, patching, attachment blocking, blacklisting/whitelisting, and other techniques to help keep attackers at bay.
- Offering to establish a staff training initiative to spot potential attacks like phishing emails or malware. Many cyberattacks begin with a phishing email. Since people can often be the weakest link, putting email security and training in place is a critical piece of any security program.
- Minimizing customer and payment data storage. A common strategy in PCI payment compliance is to remove systems from compliance by eliminating the need to hold payment data. If your customers can avoid handling or storing unencrypted personal information, it can reduce their security burden and minimize any damage when there is a breach.
- Stressing the importance of protecting all mobile devices used for business. That means physical security and device management should be part of the plan, and whatever solutions are deployed within the physical perimeter of the business should extend to employees working on the road.
- Taking an intelligent approach to alerting. Act on behalf of your SMB customers and limit the number of alerts they need to manage, so you don’t overwhelm them. SMBs want a partner that can help automate threat detection and response, and then produce alerts when there’s an incident that actually requires their attention.
SMBs are in the crosshairs when it comes to cyberattacks, whether they know it or not. With the right information and a strategic approach to IT security that acknowledges their unique requirements and challenges, MSPs can provide added value and help thwart cybercrime.
TIM BROWN is vice president of security at SolarWinds MSP.