Cybersecurity for Small Businesses: Understanding the Risks

In the UK one small business is successfully hacked every 20 seconds. In the US a small business is hacked every 4 seconds. This means just in those two countries, there are nearly 400,000 hacking attempts every day.This is a current reality; but it doesn’t have to be a perpetual reality.

Cybersecurity has often been thought of as something secondary for businesses. It’s not well understood. It’s complex. And it can also be expensive.

Moreover, it doesn’t directly contribute to a company’s bottom line. Most firms naturally want to focus on offense (generating revenue) before they focus on the integrity of their networks.

There’s also a tendency to simply think that things will be okay. As a result, cybersecurity gets little attention or budget among small businesses.

Downtime from security breaches now costs millions of dollars per year according to IBM. Covid-19 led to an increase of cyberattacks as even more global activity went online. Ransomware attacks cost companies an estimated $11 billion per year even before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Businesses increasingly need to increase the robustness of their security infrastructure and prioritized.

More remote work increases the importance of cybersecurity for small businesses

More remote work due to the pandemic means more businesses rely on secure networks. Small and medium enterprises now estimate that more than 75 percent of employees are working remotely.

IT ecosystems are developing and growing accordingly. And they’re also becoming easier to permeate. Each employee has access to over 10 million files on average.

Employees now have (and need) various devices and equipment to carry out their work tasks. Each serves as a potential way for malicious actors to get control.

Accordingly, more complex IT infrastructure requires increasingly robust security standards. Instead of an afterthought, cybersecurity should be in the same realm as performance KPIs, product development, and employment goals. It makes everything else run.

Without a reliable security strategy, performance, product innovation, and other key essentials and developments of a business are susceptible.

At the same time, McKinsey’s survey of security executives in 2021 showed that 70 percent expect their security budget to be reduced.

Senior management will find themselves increasingly in scenarios where more resources will need to be allocated toward security with each employee device effectively acting as a channel that hackers can penetrate.

Larger businesses are more vulnerable overall because of the IT surface they cover (more employees, more devices). But small businesses are generally the most susceptible given resource constraints.

Evolving needs

Security equipment, networks, hacking methods, and business functions are not status. Security must cover all moving parts.

All businesses regardless of size must respond to daily shifts on employee changes, tech updates, new partnerships with clients and suppliers, and more. Security strategies and systems need to be flexible to cater to these changes without dropping the level of protection they provide.

Devices and networks are evolving too. Businesses must ensure they’re up-to-date to avoid vulnerabilities.

60 percent of all security breaches are associated with a vulnerability that had a patch available (but was not applied).

Dell found that 63 percent of companies admitted that their data was likely compromised due to a security breach at the hardware or silicon level over the past 12 months.

IoT devices will also become more vulnerable as the roll-out of 5G increased bandwidth across all devices.

Hacking methods also evolve. Hackers also go after different things. Sometimes it’s money; but it can also be the desire for data, confidential information, and more.

In 2020, during Covid-19, ransomware attacks increased by nearly 500 percent. DDoS attacks grew by more than 150 percent.

Doing the basics of cybersecurity is unfortunately not enough. Renewing passwords at regular intervals is important. Some sites and apps even require it.

But it also requires a change in approach for many businesses. Teams must be able to identify threats and rapid respond to attacks before they happen. This helps ensure that operations can continue as normal.

Basic business survival

Sounds cybersecurity practices are not only necessary for basic business needs. It’s essential for competitive reasons. 

The financial and regulatory consequences of poor security can be fatal. Bankruptcies can and do occur due to poor security.

Accenture found that the average cost of a ransomware attack on a business is $2.6 million. That’s enough to put most small businesses out of business considering it’s almost impossible to absorb that kind of cost.

GDPR fines were $63 million in its first year.

Vodafone estimated that 1.3 million UK small and medium enterprises will collapse after falling victim to an attack.

Extrapolated to the US, this estimation comes to around 7 million SMEs.

And in an age where we willingly give up our privacy to be part of various social networks, customers now demand greater security and privacy.

Marketing Week found that about one-third of consumers believe their experience with businesses has improved since GDPR was implemented. If customers feel safe, they’re more likely to return.

Security systems will need to evolve to react faster, minimize disruption to the business (either operationally or financially), and stop attacks faster when they do occur.


We’re tempted to not doing something about a threat if we don’t think it can happen to us.

Cybersecurity strategies are not overly technical, abstract, or expensive to solve. Moreover, being small doesn’t mean less vulnerability and less of a need to implement.

77 percent of organizations don’t have an incident response plan for cybersecurity incidents.

Security solutions can also be tailored to suit all types of businesses from small startups to larger, established companies.

Companies of different sizes and scopes have different security needs, and therefore different budgets and strategies. But SMEs have just as much of an opportunity to embrace the fully integrated cybersecurity solutions that larger enterprises have.

Cybersecurity technologies are also advancing with the end-user in mind. More is being deployed to the cloud.

This helps to simplify the implementation, deployment, and maintenance. Increasingly, there’s a shift toward full-service cloud networking options. These are available without the need for hardware installation and can be customized, pre-integrated, and easily managed through central consoles.

Security solutions that are integrated, scalable, and flexible can save businesses resources while keeping up with modern threats and practices.

This is nonetheless a complement, rather than a substitute, for basic security hygiene. Implementing patches, updating passwords, and making testing regularly are essential.

These commitments need to be integrated within the culture of a company and the importance needs to be instilled in each employee. Only with a robust security strategy can all small and medium enterprises give themselves the best chance to thrive and head off all threats that come their way.

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