The COVID-19 pandemic exposed many of the vulnerabilities present in our modern-day systems, and one of the harsh truths that came to light was how important it is for businesses to go online.
The widespread lockdowns accelerated the rise of e-commerce as consumers choose to shop online instead of risking their health. Statistics show that customers spent a whopping $900 billion on online purchases in 2020, a 44 percent increase compared to 2019. Experts predict that this growth will only continue as consumers will find it difficult to shake off the purchasing habits they developed during the pandemic.
Even before the pandemic struck, business analysts were already insisting that e-commerce would soon dominate retail, claiming that by 2040, 95% of purchases would be done online. Many businesses stubbornly refused to accept this prediction, choosing to rely on strategies that have worked for them all these years. However, as COVID-19 forced consumers into their homes, businesses that relied solely on foot traffic and had little to no online presence had trouble making ends meet, and some had to close. Meanwhile, online businesses managed to stay afloat, and some even thrived.
After witnessing their competitors’ success online, many businesses followed suit and began developing websites and social media platforms. However, there are risks associated with conducting business online.
The dangers of online retail
Part of starting a business is taking precautions against threats like theft, fires, etc., by installing locks, security cameras, fire alarms, and sprinkler systems. Similarly, there are dangers present in the digital sphere which could jeopardize your business, and you need to take steps to mitigate these threats. One of the biggest concerns online businesses face is cybercriminals.
Cybercriminals, more colloquially known as hackers, are people who attempt to gain access to computer systems to destroy, steal, or modify data. They can then sell this data to the black market, lock businesses out of their system, or target their clients and partners.
The importance of cybersecurity
There are many ways hackers can gain unauthorized access to your system. Malware and phishing are the easiest ways hackers can access a device because it relies on a naive user unknowingly relinquishing login information or installing harmful software. Other hacking techniques are more complex, depending on exploiting vulnerabilities in your system like SQL attacks, DDoS, and session hijacking.
Without deploying security measures such as anti bot protection, cloud, and on-premise data security, DDOS protection, web application firewalls, runtime protection, and others, you not only put your business at risk but also your clients’ safety. An online business without effective cybersecurity measures is like an unattended store with the door wide open. You’re essentially inviting unscrupulous folks to come in and do whatever they want.
If you run a small business, you may think that hackers won’t target you, but the truth is you’re likely more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Data from 2019 showed that small businesses were the target of 43 percent of the data breaches in 2019. Hackers view small businesses as easy prey because they believe their security is easier to bypass than larger corporations.
The cost of cyberattacks
Most business owners haven’t fully grasped the scope of damage a cyberattack can cause. In 2020, the average cost of a data breach was $3.86 million. This is because if your business gets struck with a cyberattack, you may face hefty government fines. Not only that, clients may sue if their personal information was compromised. Besides these legal repercussions, you could also irreversibly lose consumer trust. Adding all these up, it’s no surprise that the US Securities and Exchange Commission reported that 60 percent of companies who are victims of cybercrime likely go out of business within six months of the attack.
Defending against cyberattacks
The good news is that there are cost-effective ways you can protect your business from hackers. Here are some tips recommended by cybersecurity experts:
Train your employees
Phishing is so prevalent among hackers because exploiting human error is one of the easiest ways they can break into your system. If your employees aren’t adequately educated on hacking techniques, they may unknowingly leave your business vulnerable. Teach them never to download attachments, click links from suspicious emails, or send sensitive information across unsecured channels.
Avail of cybersecurity services
Cybersecurity professionals are the best people to provide you with protection against hackers. These services offer a range of customizable cybersecurity plans that can be tailored to your needs and budget. Before signing with any contractor, ask yourself the following questions:
- How are the reviews? As with any service, the best way to ensure their legitimacy and gauge the quality is by checking their reviews. Don’t just rely on the reviews posted on their website. Check third-party sites and try to contact previous clients to get a more comprehensive idea of what it’s like to work with this company.
- Do they provide 24/7 support? Cyberattacks can happen anytime, so it’s best to partner with a service that can assist you even outside regular business hours.
- How much is their service? Small businesses don’t have the luxury of unlimited resources, so it may be tempting to go for the cheapest option. However, security is one aspect of your business you never want to skimp on. It could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars down the line.
Keep software up-to-date
It’s not just your antivirus software that you must keep updated. Operating systems often prompt you into installing the latest update, and it’s in your best interest to do so, as these patches can contain fixes for known vulnerabilities that hackers have recently exploited. In addition, you should also update third-party apps like Microsoft Office, Adobe, and other work-related software.
Constantly reassess your security status
Change passwords every 60 to 90 days. You should also do this after any major incident, such as an employee having a work laptop stolen or someone with knowledge of the login credentials being dismissed. In addition, maintain a regular schedule of security audits to ensure your documents are backed up, secure and that your system is adequately protected.
The mass migration of businesses to the online market comes with a slew of challenges. More business owners are learning how to run a business online effectively, including the importance of incorporating cybersecurity into their business plans. Insurance companies even offer cybersecurity insurance to cover damages resulting from a cyberattack. Companies that were former victims of cybercrime are more open about sharing their stories so that others can learn from their mistakes. With this growing awareness of the devastating effects of cybercrime, the chances of businesses falling victim to hackers can be decreased.
Unfortunately, hackers develop more insidious ways of circumventing cybersecurity measures every day, but experts are working round the clock to find solutions for the latest attacks. As business owners, our role is to work closely with your cybersecurity provider to perform risk assessments and fortify any vulnerabilities in your system. Listen to their advice and keep you and your employees updated on the latest cybersecurity protocols to keep your business from falling victim to attacks.