Yet exposure to the internet is a double-edged sword. Every day, a tidal wave of new cyberthreats is generated, washing over innocent businesses. Malicious emails carry ransomware and password-stealing trojans to countless inboxes, while other threats leverage software vulnerabilities to access systems and data that should remain private. Your own website could be hijacked to deliver malware to visitors, with no obvious indicators of trouble.
For major enterprises, cyberattacks are a serious and expensive nuisance. For a small business owner, they’re an existential threat. Operational interruptions lead to missed revenue, while the reputational harm and potential legal penalties that come with data leaks are tough to survive in their own right. Smaller businesses typically lack the resources to weather this storm, or to even consider paying a ransom for the quick restoration of their data and systems.
Cybersecurity has become a basic business need
Small- and medium-sized businesses may feel some comfort in the supposition that they’re simply “too small to target.” The reality is considerably more grim.
Just a few years ago, Cramer Snuggs, Founder of Cascade Technologies, saw perhaps one attack against his clients every six months. In the last year, that rose to one attack every other week. “[Even] with those statistics, many of our customers think they still wouldn’t become a victim,” says Snuggs. But no business is too small or disinteresting to today’s cybercriminals.
Modern cyberthreats harness automation and even AI — technologies which have made it trivial for criminals not only to generate new threats, but also to attack at scale with minimal cost. Personal information, mined from sources that include social media profiles and previous breaches, can be used to make attacks more effective with little or no manual effort. Even the smallest organizations can easily be swept up in this net. Others are breached not directly, but through supply-chain attacks against their software vendors and IT service providers.
Today’s small- and medium-sized businesses are, in fact, at incredible risk from phishing, malware, and other digital threats. Obstacles that once kept them relatively safe — like the need for cybercriminals to manually identify targets and tailor an attack accordingly — have largely vanished. And because even the smallest businesses now live and die by the availability and integrity of their data and services, the need for effective protection has never been higher.
During the first half of 2021, four out of five organizations experienced a breach, the average cost of which rose to $3.56 million. The average ransomware payment also grew to over $100,000. It’s no wonder we’ve seen new product categories (like cyber insurance) rising in popularity. These figures would be financially significant for any enterprise; for most small businesses, they’re simply fatal.
Built-in security tools and off-the-shelf software, while relatively easy for an individual to manage, don’t offer the level of organizational protection you need to rest easy — nor do they scale efficiently as your business grows. With your company itself at stake, the only smart move is to get professional support.
“We had a large agriculture client with whom we worked for years,” Snuggs recalls. “They actually left us, because they couldn’t see why someone would attack a farm. Six months [later], they were back, having paid $150,000 in ransom after a successful phishing attack.”
How managed service providers can solve the security puzzle
Much as you would rely on an electrician to wire your building and resolve sparking outlets, there’s tremendous value in outsourcing the critical task of cybersecurity to the professionals. Managed IT services are the answer here.
Small businesses are sitting ducks in today’s cyberthreat environment. Most don’t have cyber protection solutions to enable advanced anti-malware protection that integrates with data backups, nor do they have IT security experts on staff to properly configure software and respond to dynamic situations. And they don’t always train employees on cybersecurity best practices, which often leads to the use of weak passwords and an increased likelihood of falling victim to phishing scams.
It’s hard to entirely fault smaller companies for this status quo. Effective cybersecurity becomes a more complicated prospect every day, and is already a serious challenge for resource-strapped businesses. Most also fail to fully appreciate the severe risks presented by modern cyberthreats, any one of which could spell doom.
“If companies just [implemented multi-factor authentication], they would be exponentially more secure,” says Brian Grayek, Virtual Chief Information Security Officer at Cosant Cyber Security, speaking to the importance of even relatively simple security measures. “So why don’t [they]? A) They don’t know. B) They think it’s high-cost and it’s too hard to do. Well, it’s neither. It’s not high-cost, and it’s not hard to do.”
Managed service providers make it simple and affordable to give your organization a necessary level of baseline protection, with capabilities like:
In a world of rapidly evolving cyberthreats, you need to take a proactive approach towards malware. Working with a managed service provider gives small businesses access to dedicated security professionals who have the expertise needed to improve your cybersecurity posture and provide expert-level configuration of security solutions. When security flaws in the software your business relies on are discovered (or accidentally introduced in a new update), service providers will identify these risks through regular vulnerability assessments, take steps to minimize your exposure, and deploy fixes as soon as they become available.
Data privacy compliance
Do you know exactly where your data is stored? Even small businesses often rely on cloud services and infrastructure that may exist anywhere in the world — and most countries have their own rules and regulations around how that data is stored or accessed within their borders. Managed service providers can help you meet and maintain compliance with any applicable data storage/privacy regulations, side-stepping legal risks that you may not even have been aware of.
Data backups are important for any company, but restoring from backup can be a slow process. In a disaster situation — where your systems are locked up or power isn’t available — it might not even be immediately possible to start the restoration process. Managed service providers can help you resume operations quickly and completely with a disaster recovery plan, running your backups as virtual machines in the cloud and keeping any service interruptions to a minimum. They’ll also help you to identify and remedy potential leakage of sensitive data.
“It used to be the case that if our clients had backups, we just restored them, moved on, didn’t have to pay the ransom,” says Snuggs. “Today … we have a lot more to worry about. Oftentimes, [clients have] data that is proprietary to their business or their industry and could cause a major disruption [if compromised]. In healthcare, for instance, we have to worry about personally-identifiable information being published to the Dark Web.”
Controlled risks and expenditures
While the above are all needs that small businesses can theoretically meet on their own, managed service providers typically provide them at a fraction of the cost associated with employing and training an in-house IT team. You’ll enjoy top-tier security and data protection from day one.
With so much at stake if a cyberattack hits your business, the need for cyber insurance is rising — as is the cost of acquiring and maintaining compliance for such insurance policies. But simply having a policy is not enough. Proper employee and client training, IT infrastructure, and response planning — all of which a managed services provider will supply — is critical to ensuring that your policy actually covers you in the event of an attack.
From human error to proactive attacks, this changing environment is driving the adoption of cyber protection, the integration of cybersecurity, data protection, and endpoint management. This integration is yet another area in which enlisting a managed services model can be financially prudent. Insurance agencies are raising their rates in response to rising attacks, but having professionals configure and deliver optimized IT security will minimize your risk posture, leading to reduced premiums and helping you stay compliant with shifting insurance requirements.
For small-and-medium businesses, engaging an IT service provider frees up time to focus on your own strengths — like delighting customers and growing your business. Cyberthreats may be a headache, but don’t let them make you lose sight of your dream.