If you look at the number of security alerts sent to my Inbox, cybercrime seems to always be on the rise. I certainly know it is here to stay, and near the top of the list of malicious activities are phishing scams. Most believe that only dumb people fall victim to these types of attacks. That is not true. Anyone can fall victim to a phishing scam, making it more critical than ever for me to protect you.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) 2020 Internet Crime Report, phishing was among the top three cybercrimes reported in 2020. Phishing incidents more than doubled between 2019 and 2020. More frightening than that is 90% of incidents that end with a data breach started with a phishing attempt. That FBI report shows US businesses lost more than $1.8 billion last year because of business email compromise (BEC) or spear phishing.

Email is one of the primary vectors by which cyber criminals distribute ransomware. And they often depend on phishing and social engineering to infiltrate an unsuspecting company. Traditional anti-virus software products cannot protect you from these cyber-attacks. Too often, small business owners fail to properly secure their environments because they don’t know any better or because they don’t want to spend money on something they can’t “see.”

One way to mitigate this problem is to increase security awareness. Simply training staff to be alert to what constitutes phishing emails can reduce a business’ chances of having a cybersecurity incident by up to 70%.

Let me give you a theoretical example. Assume there is a dental practice with 15 employees. How many dental practices are willing to pay every three months to certify every employee on security awareness training (which they view as “don’t click on links”)? In real life, the most common response I hear is, “Ah, it’s a pain. I don’t want to do it. No one’s going to come after us. We’re a dental practice.” Well, again, that is not true.

The bad guys know the dental practice is the one that’s probably going to react if threatened, so they’ll ransom them for $10,000 or $20,000. And what makes it hard for someone like me to get that message through to this dentist? I mean, they are probably a wonderful dentist. They’re great at fixing teeth. But they’re like, “Why would these Russians, or these North Koreans, or these people in Silicon Valley who are bad – why would they want to get me?”

The reality is the bad actors are brilliant and relentless. They know if they ransom, or if they attack, a dentist in Fort Lee, New Jersey, for $10,000 or $20,000, no one – other than the local police – is going to investigate. So now, small businesses are being targeted at a much faster rate than large companies. If the bad guys try to ransom ExxonMobil, Walmart, or some other large company, the FBI and Homeland Security will get called in. And they have serious capabilities, and they’re going to get the bad guys. But there are not enough resources to protect small companies down the road who get hit. What I am finding is more small business owners are starting to say, “Oh, maybe I should listen to my IT guy because they’re on to something.” And that thinking helps safeguard their business.

Small business owners must be cautious because cybercriminals constantly adapt their techniques to find a way in. It is an unfortunate way of life in 2022, but maintaining a heightened level of security awareness while reading each email is a requirement of using email to communicate with staff and clients. There is no escaping the threats, so you must remain vigilant and stay alert. Security awareness training can go a long way to ensure your safety.

Thanks, and safe computing!

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