Do you own a small business? If so, you are a favorite target of the Internet bad guys. More and more, they are moving away from well-prepared big businesses and stealing from small businesses, who are often unable to cope with even the most basic cyberattacks. Answer the following questions and then think carefully about what the answers mean for you.
(1) Does your business depend on a computer or computers to keep track of inventory, sales, credit card transactions, scheduling, employee records, medical records, appointments, taxes, contracts, payroll, accounting (like Quickbooks or Peachtree), Point-of-Sale (POS) data, customer information, online banking, passwords, website files, email records, vendor agreements, advertising and marketing plans, or other items vital to your business?
(2) Have you and your employees been professionally trained in how to protect your computer systems from Internet criminals?
(3) Do you have your computer files (the information mentioned in question 1) backed up?
(4) Do you have backup computers on-hand that can quickly take the place of primary computers in case of a catastrophic failure or online attack?
(5) Do you have a disaster recovery plan that you and your employees understand and know how to implement?
(6) Could your business survive without the use of its computers?
If your answer to any of the above questions is “no” or “I don’t know,” then you are a sitting duck to Internet criminals; easy pickings, waiting to be plucked.
Too many small business owners for too many years have held the same misguided notion that too many home computer users have held: “I’m too small for cybercriminals to notice. Why would they bother with someone like me?” If such a devil-may-care philosophy was ever valid, it is most certainly not valid, today. Internet crooks have learned that “bothering” with small businesses can be quite lucrative, and often, ridiculously easy.
Criminals don’t even have to know what small businesses they are stealing from, nor do they care. Using cleverly-crafted automated attack software, they can assault hundreds, even thousands of businesses at the same time, plundering those who are unprepared to resist their advances. Antivirus software vendor Kaspersky stated in its report “Size Doesn’t Matter,” that “larger enterprises have become better defended so cybercriminals are moving down the business food chain.” The result is hundreds of millions of dollars lost by small businesses every year, crimes that, with some education and attitude adjustment, could have been prevented.
As it stands, at least half of Internet-based attacks are aimed at small businesses. Nearly sixty percent of those small businesses victimized by cyberattacks end up going out of business. The inability to conduct business normally, buy or sell merchandise, account for income to tax authorities or to make payroll, combined with cleaned-out bank accounts, the loss of company files and records and a damaged reputation is more than most unprepared small businesses can endure.
The goal of my column, and the the class I teach called “Fight the Internet Bad Guys and Win,” is to teach you how to deal with these and many other issues in a focused and deliberate way. Keep an eye on this column for an announcement of when I may present the class next, and keep reading as I discuss small business safety on the Internet in more depth, and how the same principles apply to anyone who uses a computer, tablet or smart phone.