Following in the footsteps of Target, Yahoo, and Sony, Equifax has been the victim of the largest cybersecurity breach in US history. Small- to medium-sized business owners should not be lulled into a false sense of security due to the high-profile nature of the attacks on large corporations. The same sort of attacks happen to smaller businesses as well.

In 2016, the Ponemon Institute did a study on how prepared small- and medium-size businesses were at protecting their customers from cybersecurity threats. Of all the businesses surveyed only 14% rated as having effective measures to deal with security threats. Of those companies, 55% had dealt with a cyber attack within the last year, with another 50% having leaked customer or employee data due to a data breach. Ultimately on average they spent $879,582 to repair their infrastructure and lost another $955,429 as a result of disruption to the business.

Most attacks can be traced back to contractor negligence, phishing scams, or a lack of strong passwords. Somewhere around 90% of all businesses that don’t have backup systems and are affected by a data breach close within two years.

It’s a good idea for business owners to become familiar with terminology and tactics cybercriminals use and then educate their employees on them. In addition to data breaches, businesses have to be wary of ransomware style attacks that encrypt data and hold it hostage until businesses pay money to the hackers. Ransomware makes it a must for businesses to maintain robust backups so in the event of a ransomware attack they’ll be able to recover their data without paying a ransom.

The US Senate has passed the Making Available Information Now to Strengthen Trust and Resilience in Exchange Enterprise Technology (MAIN STREET) Cyber Security Act. The goal of this legislation is to provide a framework and the resources necessary for small businesses to protect themselves in an online marketplace.

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