SBDC Cautions Small Businesses About Cybersecurity; Offers Protection Tips
By Wayne Brass, Business Consultant, SBDC at USF
TAMPA (Mar. 2, 2017) -- Cybersecurity is a big scary unknown term to most small-business owners, but it is an issue that could cost them embarrassment, legal entanglements and significant amounts of money.
Cybersecurity is the in-place policies, procedures and training used to protect all of a company's electronic data, information and communication. Also at risk are the company's client or customer information, including account numbers, personal financial data and health information.
Small Business Impact
According to a recent Florida Trend article, small business cyber attacks are on the rise and business owners are not prepared to deal with the growing, troubling issue. Consider these statistics from the same article:
- 43 percent of all attacks worldwide were targeted at small businesses with less than 250 employees; that's up from 34 percent in 2014.
- 79 percent of small businesses do not have a cyber attack response plan even though 83 percent have been the victim of a cyber attack.
- $20,000 is the average cost of a cyber attack on a small business.
Small Business Protection
More and more small businesses are reaching out to the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of South Florida for assistance in strengthening their cybersecurity this year. This is especially important for businesses involved in international trade and/or government contracting, two of the center's main service areas.
Small businesses are the major target because major corporations have the funding for staff or outside consultants to develop security programs and services. Small business normally do not those resources to make cybersecurity a priority.
Threats don't always come from outside the company. Sometimes, they originate from within the workforce to pose threats to hack, interfere and disrupt the operation of a business.
Does your company have written cybersecurity policies and procedures in place? Is everyone trained and updated when necessary?
Employees should be reminded what to open and what not open when using the Internet. We live in a high-speed society with the need for instant information using all types of mobile devices that could bring in threats without knowing it.
- Small businesses need to take the time to learn about the threats of cybersecurity.
- Business owners should develop a security plan in writing with action steps.
- A company should educate all employees on cybersecurity and the company's security plan.
- A business should Implement the security plan and stick with it, making enhancements when necessary.
Many organizations are dedicated to assisting small business owners in understanding cybersecurity and what can be done to protect themselves. USF recognizes the importance of cybersecurity and is now home to the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, hosts an annual conference, formulates how-to tips and provides the latest cyber news and threats.
The Small Business Administration website also makes available a security overview and makes recommendations for small businesses. This is an online course and only takes 30 minutes to complete.
In addition, the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida website is consistently updating its Resources page, as more cybersecurity information becomes available via reputable organizations. Visit the resources page and look under the Existing Businesses heading to find current cybersecurity resource information.
Whatever the avenue, cybersecurity is a topic small business owners should be knowledgeable about. Small businesses should take advantage of the various quality resources available online and in their local communities via reputable business organizations.
Wayne Brass is a Florida SBDC at USF small business consultant, located at the Florida SBDC in Clearwater.