The state of SMB security

SMB laptop

Headlines around the globe are typically focused on the big names and, more importantly, the big numbers when it comes to cyberattacks. From manufacturing to banking, education or healthcare, cyber incidents involving the loss of millions of records, or which have resulted in hefty fines are, inevitably, more likely to capture our attention.

Incidents involving a small firm of accountants whose data has been held to ransom, or a dentist’s practice that has been forced offline because of malware, may not reach the mainstream media but attacks on smaller businesses are happening with alarming regularity.

Clearly, threat actors don’t only focus on large corporations; instead, they see every company as a potential target. According to BlackFog’s latest research, a staggering 61 percent of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have experienced a cyberattack in the past year. SMBs are seen as lucrative targets for criminals, as their security infrastructure and defensive capabilities are often not as robust.

This stark reality underscores the urgent need to understand and address the unique cybersecurity challenges SMBs face. As we delve into the specifics of these threats and the impact they have on businesses, it’s evident that there is a growing need for IT partners to steer them through this complex landscape.

The current cybersecurity challenges for SMBs

In order to better understand the threats that SMBs in the UK and US face, we asked security decision makers about the scale and impact of cyberattacks on their organization. What we found was both illuminating and concerning.

SMBs reported that they were hit with an average of nearly five successful cyberattacks, in the last year. These incidents are not isolated as 87 percent of IT decision-makers reported experiencing two or more successful attacks within the same period.

While these statistics highlight the pressing need for robust cybersecurity measures, SMBs often face significant constraints such as limited time and human resources, which can compromise their cyber security posture.

These constraints, coupled with the increasing sophistication of cyber threats, have led to a growing reliance on IT partners and providers for cybersecurity guidance. Nearly 69 percent of SMBs reported that they are more reliant on partners for cybersecurity guidance than they were just a year ago.

This increase is a necessary response to escalating threats. As cybercriminals become more skilled at exploiting vulnerabilities, SMBs must also evolve their cybersecurity strategies to navigate this complex threat landscape.

The impact of cyberattacks on SMBs

Unlike larger enterprises, SMBs also often lack the resources and infrastructure to quickly recover from cyber incidents which makes the fallout from any attack more devastating and far-reaching.

We found that, for 58 percent of SMBs, the primary impact of an attack was business downtime. This disruption to their operations not only incurs significant financial costs but also further strains their human resources as teams as diverted to manage the aftermath of an incident. Their workforce will be stretched to aid in crisis management, client communications, and other operational tasks. So, the ripple effects of this downtime can be felt across the entire business, from reduced productivity to lost sales opportunities.

Beyond operational disruption, cyberattacks can also severely damage a business's reputation. A third of all respondents reported that these incidents resulted in the loss of customers. This erosion of trust can have a long-term effect on customer relationships and, ultimately, the business's bottom line.

Perhaps the most concerning outcome is the loss of customer data, reported by 39 percent of affected organizations. Such breaches can carry significant legal and financial implications, underscoring the importance of implementing robust data protection strategies.

Cybercriminals naturally gravitate towards targeting organizations with the lowest level of protection, as their success rate is higher. We found that SMBs, on average, experienced close to five successful data breaches, malware, or ransomware attacks affecting their network in the past year, and 89 percent of all attacks involved some form of data exfiltration. With the average cost of a ransomware attack now coming to more than $740,000, a successful breach could potentially cripple an SMB and force them out of business. Therefore, it is paramount for organizations to prioritize the protection of their most valuable business-critical asset: their data. This is where IT partners can help SMBs to bolster their defenses and develop effective data protection strategies.

The evolving role IT partners

There is a growing need for partners to deliver a comprehensive range of services that address the specific challenges SMBs face, and, in particular, counter the increasing risk of data loss. Given that the majority of attacks involve some form of data exfiltration, it's clear that traditional defensive measures are no longer sufficient.

Now, more than ever, partners have an opportunity to ensure their client’s data is protected from extortion by offering services, guidance and education to help SMBs meet the latest threats. Awareness is key and, as our research shows, 41 percent of respondents find knowledge of cyber threats to be their biggest challenge in maintaining effective protection. IT partners can fill this knowledge gap by providing regular updates on the latest threats, offering training sessions and sharing best practices for cybersecurity.

High-security standards are expected from partners, with more than a third of respondents (38 percent) stating this was the main determining factor when choosing a managed security provider. IT partners must demonstrate their commitment to security by adhering to industry standards, implementing robust security measures and regularly auditing their systems.

Overall, there is a huge opportunity for solution providers and partners to build new relationships in this market as SMBs struggle with a rising tide of cybersecurity threats. Security decision-makers should expect partnerships in which they are kept up to date with the latest and most innovative solutions, services and knowledge that their business needs to bolster its resilience.

The role of IT partners in SMBs' cybersecurity is constantly evolving. It's no longer simply about providing solutions; it's about becoming a trusted advisor, a source of knowledge and a partner in the truest sense -- that way, SMBs will be more equipped to navigate and overcome the challenges ahead.

Photo Credit: one photo/Shutterstock

Dr. Darren Williams is CEO and Founder of BlackFog.

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