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American SMBs Fear Cyber-Attacks from Foreign Countries

Almost all small and medium-sized businesses in America have executives who are living in fear of a cyber-attack from foreign adversaries, according to new research published today.

The Q4 Cyberthreat Index for Business Survey by Zix-AppRiver found that 93% of SMB executives believe that as foreign adversaries attempt to breach national security or wage cyber-war, they will use small businesses such as their own as entry points. Two-thirds expect this threat to be more severe in 2020, when the next presidential election will take place.

To better protect their businesses from the evil machinations of threat actors, 62% of American SMB executives plan to increase their cybersecurity budgets in the coming year.

Among the list of cybersecurity upgrades executives would like to make, their highest priorities were employing more cybersecurity technology (58%), creating better security awareness training for their employees (57%), and conducting more regular reviews of their existing security defenses (50%). 

These findings are in line with other key results from the survey, which indicate that only 43% of all SMB executives currently feel in control and confident in their own cyber-preparedness. 

"In 2019, we saw cyberattacks on our government trickle down from large agencies to smaller local municipalities and schools. That follows the pattern we’ve seen in business, where attacks have expanded from big corporations to small and medium-sized businesses," said Zix CEO Dave Wagner.

"While these attacks can originate from anywhere, the survey data shows that SMBs believe foreign actors and even nation-states may be targeting them as the first step toward access to larger companies or government agencies."

The survey polled 1,049 cybersecurity decision-makers within US SMBs that employed fewer than 250 employees, covering a diverse range of industry sectors. 

Respondents working with the government and technology sectors were among those most concerned about foreign state-sponsored cyber-attacks on their business in 2020. 

Executives within these industries also had the highest propensity to increase their cybersecurity budgets in 2020, with 77% of technology SMBs and 76% of government SMBs planning to increase their budgets in the coming year. 

"It seems unusual that small and midsize companies are concerned about foreign powers, but with elections coming up in 2020, they have legitimate reasons to worry about becoming vulnerable entry points for outside entities," said Troy Gill, senior cybersecurity analyst at AppRiver.

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