Cybercriminals Attacking More Small Businesses

Sunday, 28 Apr 2013 12:10 PM

By Michael Kling

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While high-profile hacks of well-known companies grab headlines, cybercriminals are increasingly targeting small businesses, which they view as easy prey.

According to cybersecurity firm Symantec, 31 percent of all targeted attacks are now directed at those with 250 employees or less, a threefold increase from 2011. Cybercriminals are attacking smaller businesses because they often lack sufficient protection, writes Symantec expert Andy Singer on the company's blog. They sometimes use them as a stepping stone to larger targets.

Web-based attacks increased 30 percent last year, and many of these attacks may have used the compromised website of a small business to attack a larger organization, according to Singer. In one instance, one of these “watering hole” attacks infected 500 businesses in a single day.

Editor’s Note: Put the World’s Top Financial Minds to Work for You

Ransomware, which won't release control of the computer until the user pays a fee, typically from $50 to $400, is one growing threat, already generating at least $5 million a year.

Mobile devices are another growth area for cybercrime. Mobile malware increased 58 percent in 2012, and 32 percent of all mobile threats steal information.

"In the coming months and years, we anticipate that techniques currently being used to attack large enterprises and government entities for commercial gain will be employed against SMBs (small and medium businesses," Singer writes. "It also appears that malware originating from websites will become both more common and more dangerous, and the
maturing mobile market will continue to drive more threats targeting these devices."

Large companies have beefed up their cyber defenses, prompting criminals to seek easier prey, according to CNNMoney. "A typical small business doesn't have a 50-person IT department and every computer protected," Singer told CNNMoney. "They don't have the money for it."

Cyber crooks are attacking small companies, such as suppliers of partners of large companies, as a doorway into large corporate IT systems, according to CNNMoney. They also target small firms that may be acquired soon by a larger corporation.

Some small businesses mistakenly believe they are not attractive targets. "Small businesses retain very valuable information for hackers, like customers' credit card numbers, intellectual property, and money in the bank," Vikram Thakur, Symantec's principal security response manager, told CNNMoney. "Small companies are lucrative victims, too. That's making the
target on their back even bigger."

Experts advise using strong passwords, keeping antivirus programs updated, and keeping essential businesses services away from the Internet.

Editor’s Note: Put the World’s Top Financial Minds to Work for You


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