Small businesses create stronger defenses in threat landscape

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Whilst cybercriminals are equipped with weaponized AI, effective social manipulation techniques and sophisticated malware programs, the most dangerous aspect of it all is their persistence.

In the last year, nearly 40% of businesses were hit by a cyberattack according to the UK Government’s recent Cyber Security Breaches Survey. Furthermore, these were not one-off incidents but part of a series of attacks; the study showed that 31% of businesses estimated they were attacked at least once a week.

About the author

Keiron Holyome is Vice President for UKI, Middle East & Africa at BlackBerry.

BlackBerry’s Threat Research team reported that small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) are an increasingly the focus of cyber attacks, facing upward of 11 cyberthreats per device, per day – a proportion much higher than larger enterprises.

For businesses with access to large amounts of funding, investing in sophisticated cyber defenses is - of course - an effective solution. State-of-the-art cybersecurity software and specialist skills and resources can bolster defenses - and quickly! Smaller businesses do not have as many options due to budgetary constraints. As a result, they are often at higher risk. .An attack can be deadly if it hits an SMB: the Ponemon Institute found that 60% of SMBs go out of business within six months of a cyberattack due to the extent of the reputational and financial damage. However, leaders in SMBs shouldn’t lose heart. A solution is possible, and they really can achieve the same, sophisticated level of defense as organizations with significantly larger budgets. Here’s how.

In cybersecurity, success is in the small details

We recently saw the Marriott International Group suffer its third publicly acknowledged data breach in four years. The hotel chain disclosed the incident after a site reported that an unnamed threat actor claimed to have stolen 20 gigabytes of sensitive data. With huge cyberattacks littering the news cycle, small businesses may anticipate complex attacks on their infrastructure. In our recent BlackBerry Threat Report 2022, we found that this is rarely the case. Older techniques, which can be less technical, are gaining popularity. Whilst this may be surprising, it is proving to be incredibly effective.

The simple attacks are the most common. Utilizing older techniques such as phishing and watering hole attacks has been a popular choice due to the proliferation of digital channels such as SMS and smartphone apps. BlackBerry’s research discovered that out of the nearly 40% of UK businesses that identified an attack, the most common threat vector was phishing attempts (83%), while only one in five businesses identified the anticipated sophisticated techniques of malware and ransomware.

Despite lack of sophistication, or the messy exits we’re seeing many attacks display, threat actors are nonetheless successful.

In many cases, threat actors left behind playbook text files containing IP addresses and more. Despite being less technically advanced, cyber criminals were able to infiltrate organizations' barriers due to small businesses still using older technologies and infrastructure for protection. If this continues, SMBs will remain the prime targets, even for the simplest of attacks, if they fail to bolster their defenses and tighten their security. Last year, we witnessed a huge number of simple yet deadly attacks on SMB targets. So, how can we prepare ourselves and guard against this?

The three avenues for protection: people, solutions, and attitudes

When making decisions about cybersecurity solutions, one of the first thing SMB leaders would consider is the cost. Whether that’s employing an entire IT team or integrating cyber software across IT equipment, a significant cost would be involved. Luckily, this needn’t be the case. It is entirely possible to outsource help and a level of protection that few organizations can otherwise afford on their own.

There are three avenues small businesses should consider:

1. Attitudes 

No number of outsourced services or technologies can prevent human error. However, it’s possible to reduce error through introducing positive security attitudes and cultures. A Zero Trust security model addresses this by assuming every user, endpoint, and network are potentially hostile. No user can access anything until they prove who they are, that their access is authorized, that they’re not acting maliciously, and that the Wi-Fi or cellular network they are connected to is not compromised.

2. People

The digital skills gap weighs heavily upon SMBs, who may not even have cyber specialists among their IT teams. To avoid stretching out teams, businesses can engage a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP). An MSSP provides outsourced monitoring and management of security devices and systems. They provide customers with services around the clock, 24/7, which maintain a strong security defense.

3. Solutions

Cyber threats can appear highly complex. Many SMBs fear that they don’t have the visibility or power to stop them. Here is where Extended Detection and Response (XDR) can help. By collecting and analyzing data from multiple sources, these solutions gives businesses a complete view of all potential network and endpoint vulnerabilities, and enterprise security personnel can more effectively prevent cyberthreats. XDR can detect threats in real time. The faster a threat is detected, the better; as a result, security teams can investigate and act quickly. Similar to MSSP services, XDR has 365x24x7 threat monitoring, protecting even at weekends and during holidays. In the event of a cyberattack, XDR enables faster discovery, response and remediation, freeing up valuable resources to focus on more impactful projects.

Prevention is always better than cure

SMBs have options which need not cost them an arm and leg. There is varied choice, whether it be in the form of people who can help serve your cybersecurity needs, solutions which automate responses, or a strong sense of Zero Trust among every member of your team. SMBs needn’t feel alone or unable. Answers are out there. The threat landscape is evolving in ways which demand a stronger and proactive defense from small businesses. With varied ways to do this, SMBs can be confident to use tools and resources to survive and thrive, despite the ongoing cyber threat.

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Keiron Holyome is Vice President for UKI, Middle East & Africa at BlackBerry.