Many SMBs are running outdated operating systems

Image credit: Shutterstock
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Cybercriminals are stepping up their efforts when it comes to targeting SMBs according to new research from Alert Logic.

In its new Critical Watch Report: SMB Threatscape 2019, the firm revealed that there has been a steady increase in attacks as well as changes in attack methods which target SMBs weaknesses in encryption, workload configuration, limited visibility into vulnerabilities and outdated operating systems.

To compile its report, Alert Logic's Threat Intelligence team analyzed over 1.3 petabytes of data, 10.2tn log messages, 2.8bn intrusion detection events and 8.2m verified security incidents across its customer base of more than 4,000 organizations. The teams also investigated emerging and evolving vulnerabilities and attack methods across the open internet to uncover several patterns that specifically affect SMBs.

One of the biggest takeaways from the report though, is the fact that 66 percent of SMB devices are running versions of Microsoft Widows that have either expired or will expire by January 2020. Of the devices scanned by Alert Logic, the majority of devices were running Windows versions that were more than 10 years old.

The firm also found that over 30 percent of SMB email servers operate on unsupported software. Email is the lifeblood of many organizations which is why Alert Logic found it so surprising that a third of the top email servers detected were running Exchange 2000 which has been unsupported for almost 10 years.

Encryption issues and vulnerabilities

The implementation of automatic patching has helped reduce the frequency of vulnerabilities but configurations still remain a major issue. According to Alert Logic's research, just 13 encryption-related configuration issues accounted for 42 percent of all security issues found.

The report also revealed that 75 per cent of unpatched vulnerabilities in the SMB space are more than one year old. While automated updates have improved software patching, organizations are still having difficulty keeping pace.

Senior vice president of product strategy and engineering at Alert Logic, Onkar Birk explained why the cybersecurity skills gap is putting SMBs at risk, saying:

"The continued lack of skilled cybersecurity professionals affects organizations of all sizes, and small and midsize businesses are at greater disadvantage because they can't scale like large organizations can. These organizations will greatly benefit from partnering with providers who can augment their limited teams with threat intelligence and experts to be more secure and compliant."