Skip to content ↓ | Skip to navigation ↓
Home » News »
Life among America’s nearly 32 million small businesses has never been easy. According to the Small Business Administration, about 20% of small business startups fail in their first year and half succumb to failure within five years. Bigger businesses have always had more capital, better access to loans, and more staying power.
Lately, survival has become even more difficult for two reasons – one relatively obvious, and one less so. Strong demand amid short supply and high inflation is the economic backdrop today, and big businesses largely have been holding their own because of their heft, sophistication, and strong vendor ties. It has been a tougher road for many small and medium-size businesses, however, reflecting less supply chain buying power and less ability to boost wages amid a tight labor market.
This was largely predictable given the times, but the second small business headache today – heightened cybersecurity woes – was not.
Because many SMBs haven’t been taking cybersecurity seriously, they’re being breached markedly more. Small businesses have accelerated their adoption of new digital technologies for remote work, production, and sales, just as big companies have. But they haven’t followed through with significant cybersecurity spending, even though their expanded computer networks have created new vulnerabilities for phishing and ransomware attacks.
As a result, the risk of a cyber-attack for SMBs – already typically higher than the risk for big companies – has grown dramatically over the past couple of years. During 2020 and 2021, data breaches at small businesses globally soared 152% in comparison to the two previous years, according to RiskRecon, a MasterCard unit that assesses companies’ cybersecurity risk. This figure is twice as large as it was among larger companies in the same period.
In addition, a 2021 study by IBM revealed that 52% of small businesses had experienced a cyberattack in the previous year – a figure likely higher now because there are even more cyber-attacks. Meanwhile, a recent survey by UpCity, a Chicago-based business service provider, found that only 50% of U.S. small businesses have a cybersecurity plan in place for 2022. While a small improvement from the past, this still means that 50% don’t have a plan – a significant issue.
Given today’s difficult circumstances, it’s not surprising that small businesses are focused more on day-to-day survival. Nonetheless, longer-term survival is probably out of reach without a respectable cybersecurity program. Virtually everything, after all, has become digital. All sensitive personal files are stored on a computer today and banks and credit card accounts are accessed online, as is the financial information of companies, big and small. It’s also important to remember that cybercriminals lurk inside, as well as outside, the walls of companies.
All this requires cyber protection, including trained cybersecurity personnel and some sort of data recovery and business continuity plan. Unfortunately, however, too many small business owners still believe they are too small for cybercriminals to worry about, and don’t have enough data to warrant a breach.
One important reality that they don’t realize is that cyberattacks at big companies are far more likely to catch the eye of federal law enforcement – something no criminal wants. It’s also true that malicious actors know that the world’s largest companies take cybersecurity very seriously. So, they have increasingly found that instead of fighting an uphill battle, it’s better to target smaller businesses that are part of their supply chains, knowing their defenses are typically far weaker.
Another frequently misguided notion among small business owners is the financial reality of a cyber breach. Many still think it’s mostly about the payment of immediate damage and repair – roughly akin to other damaging disasters. In fact, much more than this falls on the general accounting ledger, including ransomware payments, lost productivity, increased payroll hours, investigations, regulatory filings and frequent legal expenses.
There is also the negative impact of bad publicity, in many cases the worst hit of all. Eighty percent of consumers will defect from business if they information is compromised in a breach, according to International Data Corporation.
Small businesses need to find ways to more generously finance cybersecurity and seriously plan and create security procedures. They also need to adopt ways to better protect data and connected devices from cyberattacks, which like security procedures, is largely about strategy, not finances.
In this vein, here are some tips:
Make security part of your company culture. Studies have found that the human factor was involved in more than 85% of breaches, whether it entailed falling for a phishing attack or using easily decipherable passwords. These can be mitigated through expansive awareness programs that don’t stop with a playbook of possible attacks. They also infuse safety into the organizational fabric, constantly reminding employees of their responsibility to keep the organization safe.
Deploy malware prevention software and keep it updated. It would be best to have software that protects devices from viruses, spyware, ransomware and phishing scams. Make sure it’s updated regularly.
Require use of strong passwords and two-factor authentication. The easiest way to break into a business network is by guessing passwords. Most people use a single password for multiple sites and accounts. All employees should have unique passwords for each of their accounts. Password managers are the best method for achieving this goal.
Back up data regularly. It’s best to have multiple backups of company data. This way, if you become the victim of various cyberattacks, you’re not totally out in the cold.
Limit employee access. It makes sense to segment and limit employees to only the systems and data they must access. If tight access controls are maintained, you’ll limit the damage that any single user can do to your network security.
At the very least, these and other similar steps can help mitigate cyber stress throughout the business. According to a recent CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey, which regularly surveys more than 2,000 small business owners quarterly to monitor their outlook on the business environment, nearly four in 10 small business owners are concerned about a cyber-attack within the next 12 months. Alleviating some of this worry is almost as valuable as stopping an attack itself.
About the Author: Robert Ackerman Jr. is the founder and managing director of AllegisCyber Capital, an early-stage cybersecurity venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley. He is also co-founder and a board director of DataTribe, a seed and early-stage foundry, based in Fulton, Md., that invests in young cybersecurity and data science companies.
Bob has been recognized as a Fortune 100 cybersecurity executive and also as one of “Cybersecurity’s Money Men.” Previously, as an entrepreneur, Bob was the president and CEO of UniSoft Systems, a leading UNIX systems house, and founder and chairman of InfoGear Technology Corp, a pioneer in the original integration of web and telephony technology.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.
Categories Risk-Based Security for Executives, Connecting Security to the Business, Featured Articles
Tags cybersecurity policy, Small Business, SMB, vulnerabilities
has contributed 1,110 post to The State of Security.
Biden to create cybersecurity standards for nation’s ports as concerns grow over vulnerabilities
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday signed an executive order and created a federal rule aimed at better securing the nation’s ports from potential cyberattacks.
The administration is outlining a set of cybersecurity regulations that port operators must comply with across the country, not unlike standardized safety regulations that seek to prevent injury or damage to people and infrastructure.
“We want to ensure there are similar requirements for cyber, when a cyberattack can cause just as much if not more damage than a storm or another physical threat,” said Anne Neuberger, deputy national security adviser at the White House.
Nationwide, ports employ roughly 31 million people and contribute $5.4 trillion to the economy, and could be left vulnerable to a ransomware or other brand of cyberattack, Neuberger said. The standardized set of requirements is designed to help protect against that.
The new requirements are part of the federal government’s focus on modernizing how critical infrastructure like power grids, ports and pipelines are protected as they are increasingly managed and controlled online, often remotely. There is no set of nationwide standards that govern how operators should protect against potential attacks online.
The threat continues to grow. Hostile activity in cyberspace — from spying to the planting of malware to infect and disrupt a country’s infrastructure — has become a hallmark of modern geopolitical rivalry.
For example, in 2021, the operator of the nation’s largest fuel pipeline had to temporarily halt operations after it fell victim to a ransomware attack in which hackers hold a victim’s data or device hostage in exchange for money. The company, Colonial Pipeline, paid $4.4 million to a Russia-based hacker group, though Justice Department officials later recovered much of the money.
Ports, too, are vulnerable. In Australia last year, a cyber incident forced one of the country’s largest port operators to suspend operations for three days.
In the U.S., roughly 80% of the giant cranes used to lift and haul cargo off ships onto U.S. docks come from China, and are controlled remotely, said Admiral John Vann, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s cyber command. That leaves them vulnerable to attack, he said.
Late last month, U.S. officials said they had disrupted a state-backed Chinese effort to plant malware that could be used to damage civilian infrastructure. Vann said this type of potential attack was a concern as officials pushed for new standards, but they are also worried about the possibility for criminal activity.
The new standards, which will be subject to a public comment period, will be required for any port operator and there will be enforcement actions for failing to comply with the standards, though the officials did not outline them. They require port operators to notify authorities when they have been victimized by a cyberattack. The actions also give the Coast Guard, which regulates the nation’s ports, the ability to respond to cyberattacks.
Why Was Sam Altman Fired? Possible Ties to China D2 (Double Dragon) Data from Hackers
Theories are going around the internet why Sam Altman was fired. On an insider tech forum (Blind) – one person claims to know by third-hand account and how this news will trickle into the media over the next couple of weeks.
It’s said OpenAI had been using data from D2 to train its AI models, which includes GPT-4. This data was obtained through a hidden business contract with a D2 shell company called Whitefly, which was based in Singapore. This D2 group has the largest and biggest crawling/indexing/scanning capacity in the world 10x more than Alphabet Inc (Google), hence the deal so Open AI could get their hands on vast quantities of data for training after exhausting their other options.
The Chinese government became aware of this arrangement and raised concerns with the Biden administration. As a result, the NSA launched an investigation, which confirmed that OpenAI had been using data from D2. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, which is a major investor in OpenAI, was informed of the findings and ordered Altman’s removal.
There was also suggestion that Altman refused to disclose this information to the OpenAI board. This lack of candor ultimately led to his dismissal and is what the board publicly alluded to when they said “not consistently candid in his communications with the board.”
To summarize what happened with Sam Altman’s firing:
1. Sam Altman was removed from OpenAI due to his ties to a Chinese cyber army group.
2.OpenAI had been using data from D2 to train its AI models.
3. The Chinese government raised concerns about this arrangement with the Biden administration.
4. The NSA launched an investigation, which confirmed OpenAI’s use of D2 data.
5. Satya Nadella ordered Altman’s removal after being informed of the findings.
6. Altman refused to disclose this information to the OpenAI board.
We’ll see in the next couple of weeks if this story holds up or not.
AMAZON says cloud operating normally after outage left publishers unable to operate websites…
SEATTLE (AP) — Amazon’s cloud computing unit Amazon Web Services experienced an outage on Tuesday, affecting publishers that suddenly found themselves unable to operate their sites.
The company said on its website that the root cause of the issue was tied to a service called AWS Lambda, which lets customers run code for different types of applications.
Roughly two hours after customers began experiencing errors, the company posted on its AWS status page that many of the affected AWS services were “fully recovered” and it was continuing to recover the rest. Soon after 6:30 pm E.T., the company announced all AWS services were operating normally.
Amazon said it had experienced multiple error rates for AWS services in the Northern Virginia region where it clusters data centers. The company said customers may be dealing with authentication or sign-in errors when using some AWS services, and experiencing challenges when attempting to connect with AWS Support. The issue with Lambda also indirectly affected other AWS services.
Patrick Neighorn, a company spokesperson, declined to provide additional details about the outage.
AWS is the market leader in the cloud arena, and its customers include some of the world’s biggest businesses and organizations, such as Netflix, Coca-Cola and government agencies.
Tuesday’s outage was first confirmed shortly after 3 p.m. ET. and it was unclear how widespread the problem extended. But many companies, including news organizations such as The Verge and Penn Live, said they were experiencing issues. The Associated Press was also hampered by the outage, unable to operate their sites amid breaking news that former President Donald Trump was appearing in court in Miami.
Morgan Durrant, a spokesperson for Delta Air Lines, said the company experienced “some slowing of inbound calls for some minutes” on Tuesday afternoon. But he said the outage did not impact bookings, flights or other airport operations.
The episode on Tuesday is reminiscent of a much longer AWS outage in December 2021, which affected a host of U.S. companies for more than five hours.
The outage comes as Amazon is holding a two-day security conference in Anaheim, California to tout its cloud offerings to its clients or other companies that might be interested in storing their data on its vast network of servers around the world. Companies have been cutting back their spending on the unit, causing growth to slow during the most recent quarter.