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Should Small Businesses be Concerned with Data Security?

|Oct 10|magazine10 min read

 

Written by: Sean Forkan, Country Manager, Symantec Canada

A question I get asked a lot is if SMBs need to worry about data security. My answer is always the same: Absolutely.

Targeted attacks aren’t just aimed at the big guys anymore.  The June Intelligence Report from Symantec found that SMBs are not too small to escape the notice of sophisticated attackers. In fact, 36 per cent of all targeted attacks (58 per day) during the first half of this year were directed at businesses with 250 or fewer employees. This is up from the 18 per cent reported in December 2011.

We’ve tracked three distinct trends that make SMBs a prime target: 

  • Being at the forefront of innovation in their industry
  • Malware authors can target an SMB in order to gain access to a larger enterprise –SMBs often supply goods and services to companies and organizations that are highly prized by attackers
  • Possessing high value assets that may be intangible in nature

Despite this, SMBs don’t believe they are at risk. Almost half (49 per cent) of Canadian SMBs do not feel they are a target for threats, and 66 per cent of Canadian respondents do not lock down machines used for online banking to protect its company bank account.

The best way Canadian SMBs can protect themselves is to be prepared. After all, downtime (whether from an attack, breach or natural disaster) equals lost business. Of Canadian small businesses, 34 per cent reported lost revenue and 57 per cent lost productivity due to a typical outage, according to Symantec’s 2012 SMB Disaster Preparedness Survey. As a small business, is this a risk you can afford to take?

We understand that for many small business owners, securing your company may appear to be a difficult and confusing task. But IT doesn’t have to be hard. Here are a few tips to help you better protect your small business:

Plan to grow: Consumer software is not meant to protect SMBs and the massive amount of information they accumulate. We recommend that an SMB with 10 or more employees use an SMB focused product (Symantec offers Endpoint protection SMB edition and Backup Exec SMB edition, to name a few). It’s also important for an SMB with fewer than 10 employees to plan to outgrow consumer software as the company grows. Recently SMBs told us that information accounts for 40 per cent of their organization’s value, and as a result a data breach or lost information can have disastrous consequences for an SMB.

Educate employees:  Develop Internet security guidelines and educate employees about Internet safety, security and the latest threats. Encourage employees to follow the BYOD trend (bring your own device) but establish guidelines to keep your infrastructure safe. All mobile devices should be password protected and have security installed, lost or stolen devices should be immediately reported and avoid opening email or text messages from unknown senders – as with PCs, malware can infect  mobile devices through such messages

Assess your security status:  SMBs are facing increased risks to their confidential information so safeguarding data is critical.  For an SMB, one data breach could mean financial ruin and loss of customers. Secure your website with an SSL (secured sockets layer), this will ensure that information passing through your website will remain private and secure by creating an encrypted link between a web server and browser. This will allow your customers’ private information to remain secure throughout a transaction. It’s important to understand your risks and security gaps so that you can take steps to protect your information.

Take action:  Be proactive and develop a security plan. Consider items such as password policies, endpoint protection, the security of email and Web assets, and encryption.  You should also evaluate whether on-premise or a hosted service would best suit the needs of your organization.  Symantec’s Endpoint Protection solution can easily take you from an on premise to a hosted solution. It’s important for SMBs to take advantage of technology trends like the cloud and virtualization that can enhance their efficiency.