U.S. small business owners or operators have a false sense of cybersecurity as more than three-fourths (77 percent) say their company is safe from cyber threats such as hackers, viruses, malware or a cybersecurity breach, yet 83 percent have no formal cybersecurity plan.
These findings are from a new survey released today of 1,015 U.S. SMBs by the NCSA and Symantec.
This annual survey is being released in conjunction with National Cyber Security Awareness Month, a coordinated national effort focused on improving online safety and security for all Americans. The survey findings reveal some disparities such as the need for establishing Internet security policies and practices, handling and responding to data breaches, and providing consistent IT/security management at their businesses.
Although SMBs increasingly rely on the Internet for daily operations, they are not taking the necessary measures to keep their businesses safe and secure:
A Majority of SMBs believe security is critical to their success and brand: Seventy-three percent of SMBs say a safe and trusted Internet is critical to their success, and 77 percent say a strong cybersecurity and online safety posture is good for their company’s brand.
SMBs unprepared to handle data breach losses: Nearly six out of 10 (59 percent) SMBs do not have a contingency plan outlining procedures for responding and reporting data breach losses.
Two-thirds of SMBs aren’t concerned about cyber threats: Sixty-six percent of SMBs are not concerned about cyber threats – either external or internal. External threats include a hacker or cyber-criminal stealing data while internal threats include an employee, ex-employee, or contractor/consultant stealing data.
“We want U.S. small businesses to understand they cannot completely remain safe from cyber threats if they do not take the necessary precautions,” said Michael Kaiser , executive director of the National Cyber Security Alliance. “A data breach or hacking incident can really harm SMBs and unfortunately lead to a lack of trust from consumers, partners and suppliers. Small businesses must make plans to protect their businesses from cyber threats and help employees stay safe online.”
Additional survey findings revealed the disparities between online safety perceptions and actual practices, which include:
Employee Internet security policies, procedures lacking for SMBs: Eighty-seven percent of SMBs do not have a formal written Internet security policy for employees, while 69 percent do not even have an informal Internet security policy. While social media is an increasingly popular vector for phishing attacks, 70 percent of SMBs do not have policies for employee social media use.
SMBs satisfied with their online safety posture despite lack of policies/plans: Eighty-six percent of SMBs say they are satisfied with the amount of security they provide to protect customer or employee data. Additionally, 83 percent strongly or somewhat agree that they are doing enough or making enough investments to protect customer data. Yet, Visa reports small businesses represent more than 90 percent of the payment data breaches reported to the company.
On a positive note, companies born of the recession are leading by example. Companies born since 2008 are almost 20 percent more likely than older small businesses to have a written plan in place for keeping their business secure from cyber threats.
Small businesses can improve their online safety practices in a number of areas, especially when it comes to establishing policies and protocols for safe Internet use, with these simple ways to stay safe online:
- Know what you need to protect: One data breach could mean financial ruin for an SMB. Look at where your information is being stored and used, and protect those areas accordingly.
- Enforce strong password policies: Passwords with eight characters or more and use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols (e.g., # $ % ! ?) will help protect your data.
- Map out a disaster preparedness plan today: Don’t wait until it’s too late. Identify your critical resources, use appropriate security and backup solutions to archive important files, and test frequently.
- Encrypt confidential information: Implement encryption technologies on desktops, laptops and removable media to protect your confidential information from unauthorized access, providing strong security for intellectual property, customer and partner data.
- Use a reliable security solution: Today’s solutions do more than just prevent viruses and spam; they scan files regularly for unusual changes in file size, programs that match known malware, suspicious e-mail attachments and other warning signs. It’s the most important step to protect your information.
- Protect Information Completely: It’s more important than ever to back up your business information. Combine backup solutions with a robust security offering to protect your business from all forms of data loss.
- Stay up to date: A security solution is only as good as the frequency with which it is updated. New viruses, worms, Trojan horses and other malware are born daily, and variations of them can slip by software that is not current.
- Educate employees: Develop Internet security guidelines and educate employees about Internet safety, security and the latest threats, as well as what to do if they misplace information or suspect malware on their machine.