If you own a small business, chances are, you have already given your IT system’s security some serious consideration. If you haven’t yet, you would be well-advised to start looking for things and ways that could assist you in protecting your source of income. 2014 witnessed a massive rise in the amount of cyber crimes that targeted all kinds of businesses, large and small, and caused a substantial amount of losses. According to Verizon’s 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report, there has been a marked rise in the number of cyber attacks faced by small businesses worldwide. Millions of users and customers suffered the loss of highly sensitive personal information in numerous incidents. Hackers have managed to extract details like bank account numbers and social security numbers from the database and cause major losses.

To understand why and how your business could be a hacker’s next target, you first need to understand how hackers approach this entire notion and what makes your business vulnerable to them. Just like we strategise in order to make our business grow, cyber criminals strategise their attacks and choose their victims carefully. Most times, they are in search of an easy hack with a lot of benefits. There are a range of motives that could be the reason behind organised and unorganised cyber attacks. They have a specific entry process that includes the targeted business into their systems and they also have a number of ways that they will use the extracted data once it has been compromised.


The Vulnerability of Small Business Networks

Small business owners are at a higher risk of system breaches; hackers regard them as the most vulnerable when it comes to the business sector. Here are some important takeaway points that might help you better understand how exposed your own business may be to cyber crimes.

Many small business entities are understaffed and do not have enterprise-level security for their sensitive data. This makes them a more attractive target for hackers and online thieves because they can easily take over your network and get all your customer information as well. It is important that as a business owner, you identify all your valuable entities and take proper measures to protect them against data breaches. Many attacks enter your system through corrupted e-mails or browsers, so you can designate a separate device for all your financial transfers and keep that device away from social media networks and other websites. Another common practice is ‘port scanning’. Hackers’ automated software scans the internet looking for open ‘windows’ or ports. For most servers to operate, 2 to 3 ports must remain open at all time.

Although it may be hard to believe, today, many small to mid-sized businesses admit to at least one cyber attack where their private information was compromised and clients suffered losses. Smaller business chains and franchises are suffering massively, since they usually do not recover from such crimes. In 2014, some of the biggest companies hit the news reporting data breaches that have resulted in huge losses. In comparison, small businesses can simply disappear. Always remember, cyber criminals are well aware of the fact that most small businesses have a small workforce and lack proper security.

Once port scanners locate a potential target, they bombard that server with set of probing questions and commands. Any response from the server, even an error message, will help hackers identify the server’s operating system. Armed with that knowledge, hackers attempt to penetrate the defence by exploiting all known vulnerabilities. Once they gain access, hackers basically can do whatever they like with your small business network. They often steal your data, inject viruses or encrypt your servers so you can’t access your own data, then, they demand ransom.

Getting Ahead of the Criminals

To better protect your business against such crimes, getting ahead of these cyber criminals seems the logical approach. The biggest cyber attacks in 2014 all had one thing in common: they all lacked proper security. 6 out of 10 Australia based small businesses admit to having suffered a system crash or breach that lasted up to 6 hours. The number of cyber attacks that succeed in penetrating the systems of small businesses in Australia has increased massively within the past two years. Many security breaches that have managed to extract valuable information have caused huge losses. Even home-based businesses need better security than the free antivirus they have installed on their systems. In such instances, paying for an antivirus which offers better protection is much less expensive than trying to recover from a cyber attack. Business owned by a single person like a doctor’s clinic or a solicitor’s office are also easy targets for hackers.

Data breaches can prove to be very costly, which is why small businesses find it harder to recover from them. It’s a whole other story when Sony or Google gets hacked. They have massive revenue and resources to recover from a data breach. In such events, small business owners should try to have a completed backup. If a server is compromised and your backup data is contaminated, your business faces a massive blow. All the documents and files are lost, your intellectual property, the client and accounting information is all compromised. There are very few examples of small businesses that have been able to fully recover from attacks of such magnitude.


What Should Be Your Plan of Action?

We would all like to have an IT department designated to protecting our network. But most small businesses find the cost quite challenging. Business owners often manage their own IT but that can become excessively tiring and tedious over the course of time. Many small businesses rely on the outsourced ‘IT person’ to look after their businesses because they are great at logging in remotely to help out your staff or carry out basic maintenance. But are they capable of defending your network around the clock?

Many small businesses are shifting to cloud computing, where all their sensitive data is stored on a secured cloud server. Depending on the service you choose, many cloud-based services also take care of security.

All it takes is just one malware infected e-mail to cause a data breach that you may not be able to recover from, so it is highly advisable to consider cloud services that cater to your security concerns while remaining within your budget.


Secure Your Business and Leapfrog Your Competition

As the name suggests, cloud desktop is based in the cloud. All your software and all your data are relocated to the cloud servers. All you need is an internet connected device, such as a laptop or a smartphone to access your full desktop. No matter where you are, you can work on any of your documents. In addition, a custom cloud desktop can host all the software you need to run your business. This means your account package, client management system and inventory software are all securely accessible by you and your team.

Cloud desktop lets you free yourself from your in-house servers that are becoming harder to manage securely. And unlike the traditional in-house server model, there are no expensive servers to buy, configure and maintain. Your entire IT infrastructure is outsourced and managed by network security specialists. Many businesses appreciate the on-demand flexibility of the cloud desktop. Businesses only pay for what they use today. And a fixed monthly ‘per user’ rate can easily scale as your business grows.

Along with many benefits, cloud computing seems to be the most effective protection you can get against cyber risks that prevail the internet. Most business owners are well aware of how important network security is, but they find it hard to invest the time the process demands. Cloud desktops can help you get the best protection against cyber threats at an affordable price. Let the specialists take care of the defence as you focus on making your business grow.