Cybersecurity: The existential threat to small-med business

No matter the size of your business, the threat is real.

by By Stacey Marx, President, AT&T National Business & Channels

Chatting with our small and medium-sized business (SMB) customers is one of the great perks of my job. I always learn something new and interesting about the challenges and rewards of entrepreneurship and have often marveled at their perseverance and resilience, particularly in the last year.

The Pandemic of 2020, as it may one day be called, brought heartbreak to so many. For businesses, too, it was a unique, once-in-a-century test to their survival. Many of our SMB customers pivoted to virtual or physical/virtual hybrid workplaces and transitioned their physical customer and employee interactions to a digital model. I’m enormously proud of the role we played in helping them survive and thrive, including delivering high-speed wireless and fiber-based solutions, increased bandwidth, remote work solutions, and our other advanced connectivity offers.

While many of our SMB customers have shared stories of extraordinary business savvy and perseverance, too often, I have also heard some version of this: “I’m a small business. I don’t need cybersecurity.” Or, “My friend (brother, neighbor, cousin) is my tech guru. He says I’m all good and runs a test on my system once a year.”

When I hear this, I pause. I take a deep breath. Then I share this:

According to a March 4, 2021 report in Security Magazine, SMBs are the #1 target for cybersecurity breaches and 60% of those whose systems are compromised close up shop permanently within a year of the attack.

Even Barbara Corcoran, Founder of the Corcoran Group & notable 'Shark' on ABC-TV’s “Shark Tank” admitted to me that she’s been a victim of weak cybersecurity protections.  

Here is what she shared with me as I made a case to her about the importance of strong cybersecurity protections for even the smallest of businesses:

“I'm embarrassed to admit in the last year alone I had three attempts at robbing money from my accounts,” she said. “Two of those attempts were stopped by bank protections and the money being transferred out of my account, close to $1 million, was returned to me. I was like, who would come after me? In a way, I was in a bubble. So, I hear what you're saying.”

The reasons for cybersecurity vulnerabilities among SMBs typically boil down to a lack of understanding of the gravity of the threat, a lack of financial or technology professional resources, and inertia when it comes to taking proactive steps to shore up their cyber defenses.

I recommend to all of our SMB customers that they consider a professional cybersecurity assessment. Our cybersecurity experts can quickly help identify where systems are vulnerable and make practical recommendations to help them use their resources most effectively. Usually, there are both technology and human behavioral challenges that need to be addressed.

A cybersecurity professional can help ensure our customers’ systems have the latest protective technologies, are using up-to-date software and hardware, and are compliant with industry-recognized standards. System software patching, application updates, and system access controls, administration and configuration are all areas that cybersecurity professionals typically assess.

The backbone of a company’s digital infrastructure is the network platform where it resides. Our cybersecurity professionals can help SMBs protect their networks from end-to-end which includes the ingress and egress of data passing to and from the internet and their businesses’ connected devices. And that’s just the starting point.

My main advice to small and medium-sized businesses is to take action, now. Address whatever you can without outside help – password security, checking that your software is up to date, and helping your employees understand the importance of proper cybersecurity awareness. After that, bring in the experts.

Better yet, spend 30 minutes listening to our cybersecurity experts share insights and wisdom about cybersecurity protections for small businesses. Our May 12th “Tech Demystified” webinar series tackled this topic and you can access it for free by clicking here.

There is no time like the present to act on your potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities. The continued growth and existence of your business may depend on it.