No Business Too Small to Be Hacked [New York Times]

Focusing on revenue over protection is far from unusual for small companies like Rokenbok. But it is an increasingly dangerous path, experts say. Limited security budgets, outdated security and lax employees can leave holes that are easily exploited by ever-more-sophisticated digital criminals.

The threat to small businesses is growing, some experts say. Sixty percent of all online attacks in 2014 targeted small and midsize businesses, according to Timothy C. Francis, enterprise leader of cyberinsurance at Travelers.

“Smaller companies are easier to hack,” said Clay Calvert, director of security at MetroStar Systems, a Virginia-based firm. “They don’t have the resources to set up protective barriers.” Big companies, which have the financial resources to upgrade their security, have become less vulnerable.

These days, businesses like Rokenbok are especially susceptible to a type of malware called ransomware, which holds data hostage in return for money. Data is slowly encrypted by criminals until the entire system is locked up. The process can take up to 42 days, Mr. Calvert said.

Rokenbok’s ransomware attack made its database files unusable. But rather than pay the ransom, the company reconstructed its key systems, a process that took four days.

Although figures are hard to come by, experts say these kinds of attacks can be so damaging to revenue and customer expectations that many small businesses are forced to close after an episode like the one Rokenbok experienced.

Mr. Siciliano recommends a security audit as a first step. The audit should take note of potential areas of risk, like customer data or employee access. “How secure — or not — is your system?” he said.

Strengthening security can be inexpensive and simple — something small businesses can do on their own, experts say. It can include updating antivirus software, adding firewalls and strengthening passwords. Or it can mean putting data in the cloud rather than on company servers, which may be more vulnerable. But often, given lean staffing, it makes more sense and can cost less in the long run to hire a firm that specializes in digital security.

Read More: No Business Too Small to Be Hacked [New York Times]

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