Small businesses underestimate cyber-crime risk

by Ofentse Sefolo
Small businesses underestimate cyber-crime risk

Two of the biggest misconceptions about cyber crime are that it doesn’t target small businesses, and that it is merely committed by teenage nerds as a joke. “Believing these myths could have huge financial repercussions and a negative impact on a company’s future,” warns Alto Africa CIO, Oliver Potgieter.
In fact, small businesses continue to be a top target for hackers. According to The Ponemon Institute’s 2017 State of cybersecurity in small and medium-sized businesses report, 61% of businesses experienced a cyber attack in 2017, signifying a 6% increase from the previous year’s 55%. Data breaches were up to 54% from 50% in 2016.

An attitude problem
Potgieter, however, points out that there seems to be a lackadaisical attitude in the small and medium-sized business (SMB) sector, particularly in the South African market space.

“The first thing every potential new customer asks is how secure our solution is. Then once implemented, they ask whether one could relax the default password policy. Security is top of mind, but bottom of pocket and policy.”

Small businesses a big target
“The reality is that a vast majority of cyber crime is not the targeted big business data breaches that make the headlines – it is the millions of unprotected little guys that are happy to pay a couple of hundred rands in ransom to get their data back,” says Potgieter.

According to Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report (April 2017), the average ransomware pay-out is about R5 000 and globally 34% of victims will pay this.

Infection methods
One ransomware variant called Popcorn Time gives a company two options for getting files back – either pay the ransom (in bitcoins), or infect two other people and get your files unlocked for free.

But according to Potgieter, hackers don’t really have to be that ingenious since Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report shows that 4% of employees will click on pretty much anything from “Free coffee” to “Package delivery”.

“Considering that a really good digital marketing campaign will only achieve a click rate of 2%, you can see why cyber crime is good business. And cyber crime is not only good business, it is big business and it’s highly organised. They have some of the smartest minds working for them and they’re coming for you,” Potgieter warns.

What to do?
“Ensure you have good systems and good IT management. It’s no good having a great computer security suite if it’s not actually installed and active on all your computers,” recommends Potgieter.

“Practise good password management and even if you have a small business, have sound policies that everyone adheres to. Talk to your staff about the risks of ransomware and try to build a culture of ‘thinking twice’. And have backups – always have backups.

“Your chances of becoming a ransomware victim or seeing your company website being hijacked by hackers are significantly decreased if you update your systems and have security software solutions capable of handling the cybersecurity needs of your company,” he states.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Alto Africa for the information provided. For more advice, contact them on www.altoafrica.com.

Caption: Alto Africa CIO, Oliver Potgieter.

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