Cyberscams for business owners to look out for

Keeping your business safe from fraud and losses

17 Jan 2020

Despite the broad-based implications of cybersecurity risks, businesses are ill-prepared for them, according to the UBS Longer Term Investments report on Security and safety. Businesses are in a particularly vulnerable position as tensions escalate between the US and Iran following the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. Read below for steps small business owners can take to protect themselves, their employees and their customers.

While Fortune 500 companies are typically in the headlines if data breaches occur, small businesses are also a big target for cyberattacks. Rather than wait around for a digital criminal to target your company, it is important to implement technology and employee training to protect your digital assets.

Customer and employee data, and even your money, may be at risk if you ignore computer and online security. Fortunately, avoiding the most common threats is manageable with the right habits and tools in place.

Key takeaways

  • With billions of dollars in losses and costs around the world, no company can ignore cybersecurity in the modern era.
  • The first step to stopping scammers is with popular antivirus and firewall software.
  • According to a 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, 43% of breaches started with a phishing attack.

Businesses of all sizes are a target for cyberattacks

According to the FBI, organized crime groups target organizations ranging from small to large companies. With billions of dollars in losses and costs around the world, companies shouldn’t ignore cybersecurity in the modern era. The FBI Internet Complaint Center (ICC) says that global losses due to business e-mail compromise totaled over $12.5 billion for the period from October 2013 to May 2018. The US alone accounted for $2.9 billion spread over 41,000 incidents. That means the average breach led to $71,000 in losses.

Business e-mail compromise (BEC) is one of the most common attacks. Using deceptive tactics, con artists and syndicates only need you to click one bad link in an e-mail to infect your computer, e-mail and online accounts. In 2018, FBI ICC received 20,373 BEC/E-mail Account Compromise complaints with adjusted losses of over $1.2 billion.

Once they have access, they can view your messages, monitor your keystrokes and take your data hostage. Criminals work to steal your money or demand ransom to regain access to accounts or prevent further harm.

Don’t think you are too small or immune—businesses of any size may be a target. Keep your defenses up or a data breach could be imminent.

Firewalls and virus scanners provide a strong defense

The first step to stopping scammers is with popular antivirus and firewall software. Windows computers have Windows Defender and Windows Firewall installed by default. Mac computers, unfortunately, don’t come with these tools unless you add them yourself.

You can also look to popular software vendors that specialize in antivirus, firewall and digital security products. These may give you even better protection in some cases. According to Gartner, companies spent 5.6% of their overall IT budget on security, though you shouldn’t equate cost with effectiveness.

Keep these apps updated to ensure they work as effectively as possible. While you’re at it, make sure to keep your operating system and any programs on your computer updated to the latest version, as well. Updates often fix security vulnerabilities. Ignoring the update warning leaves your computer at risk.

Teach your employees the best digital security habits

Clicking a bad link in an e-mail is the most common source of successful cyber intrusions. If you want to keep the bad guys out, follow best habits and invest in training your team to recognize online threats. According to a 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, 43% of breaches started with a phishing attack.

Spear phishing is a type of cyberattack in which an online criminal poses as a friend or relative attempting to access payment account information. An e-mail might look like it came from your friend, relative or a trusted company. On further analysis, you can usually spot issues like a suspicious return e-mail address or grammar errors that make it clear the e-mail isn’t what it claims to be.

This doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavor. The FTC offers free brochures you can give to your employees to teach them how to avoid common scams.

Back up to avoid data loss and corruption

Sometimes even the most prepared businesses fall victim to a cyberattack. If that happens, it is important to ensure business continuity. One type of attack locks your business computers so you can’t access any files unless you enter a code. That code will allegedly come when you hand over an untraceable ransom payment to a criminal.

If you do get hit by ransomware, you may be able to avoid a payout by tapping into a data backup. You should always keep company PCs and servers backed up both locally and in the cloud. This ensures you never lose files to corruption, deletion or lockout.

A study by CloudBerry Lab found that 32% of business owners have lost data at least once. Computer users have a 33% chance of experiencing data loss at some point, according to the study.

This does require a modest investment, depending on the size of your company. Good backups are worth every penny, however. Just ask someone who lost their data due to a hacker or even a simple hard drive crash.

Customer and business data safety is in your hands

Taking charge of your business’s digital security doesn’t have to be a major inconvenience or cost. However, it is imperative you take the time to put basic security measures in place and train your workforce on what to look out for. If you follow these reasonable steps to thwart hackers and cyber criminals, your business will be on track for a safe digital future.


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