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SMBs more vulnerable to data breaches than larger brethren

That’s the word of caution from Entrust president and CEO Bill Conner, who led two workshops at the Southern Oregon Cybersecurity Workshop this week to outline the threats businesses may encounter.

“A small to medium-sized business may think it is not at risk because of its size; however, these organizations are a favorite target of hackers as many do not have the proper tools, policies or knowledge to defend against cyberattacks,” said Conner. “Today’s cybercriminals are no longer just trying to prove a point, but aiming to do legitimate damage through the theft of money and intellectual capital, or disrupting networks.”

Increasingly, hackers are creating attacks that are tailored to smaller businesses; it’s more labor-intensive but the results tend to be high-value. The various endpoint devices proliferating in SMBs need to be properly secured to protect the company from malware, phishing and related attacks, because there is a greater likelihood of malware-related infections for the many SMBs who update their pattern files/signatures only a few times per day.

According to Osterman Research, there is a greater chance of infection during the security time gap between when malware is released and when the protection is deployed across the various endpoints.

And unlike large enterprises, even one attack can have disastrous consequences. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the US House panel that oversees technology and related issues, weighed in at the conference on the growing threat of cybertheft and attacks to SMBs.

"As a small business owner in Oregon since 1986, I know the security challenges they face,” he said. “When a business's checking account is wiped out due to a malicious virus, it may be the difference between being able to keep its doors open and being forced to shut down.”

Osterman Research recently found that data breaches lead to direct financial losses, but there’s also a high cost of direct or indirect data loss. Last year alone, more than $1bn was stolen from small and midsize bank accounts.

And, besides the consequences to SMBs of data loss, financial loss or the potential interception of sensitive content, IT security providers must spend time and money cleaning customers' endpoints. Osterman found that it takes a mean elapsed time of 72 minutes to remediate a single endpoint, time wasted that could have been avoided with better security, for instance.

What can SMBs do? Conner extolled the virtues of a layered security approach in his talk.

“Every day, 150,000 to 300,000 new malware variants are created,” he said. “Relying solely on anti-virus software and other perimeter security tools for protection is not enough. Criminals will search for any weakness to use to their advantage by way of bank accounts, email or VPN networks. Small businesses need to ensure preventative measures are in place so that normal business operations can continue while combating any risks.”

Also, SMBs should update more regularly, as close to real time as possible. Solutions that manage threat intelligence and pattern file/signature updates in the cloud save on endpoint computing resources and allow security solutions to detect and remediate newly discovered threats more quickly. “This will result in lower costs and fewer infections, coupled with fewer IT resource requirements and less time spent on cleaning devices, as well as less time spent managing email and web security,” Osterman researchers added.

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