Your Small Business Is a Prime Target for Hackers!

It seems counter-intuitive, but hackers absolutely LOVE to go after small businesses.  There are far fewer defenses with small businesses, and the data treasures are definitely worth it. 

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Hackers Love Small Businesses? It Leads to Larger Treasures?

Small businesses: hackers love you!
Small businesses: hackers love you!. Getty Images

Lifewire.com: Max: thank you for your time to chat with us today. This claim of yours is quite disconcerting: as a small business owner, I should be extra afraid of hackers and malware attacks?  What makes you say this?

 

Max Nomad: 

Every small business has data and/or resources that cyber criminals can monetize. Think of it the same way that primitive humans hunted for food: they would use hide for clothes, turn the bones into basic tools, dry out the muscle sinew for bowstrings and etc. For every successful Woolly Mammoth kill, it was a lot of smaller game that usually kept the tribe fed. A savvy cyber criminal will cannibalize everything on a network.

For example, let’s say we’ve hacked into a network belonging to Acme Landscaping Company. Since they’re landscapers we know there’s no merchandise to steal. There’s an upscale customer base (landscapers aren’t cheap). Downloading the accounting data files brings a treasure chest of employee, customer and vendor data (e.g. – full employee info, customer credit cards, company bank accounts and lines of credit, etc.). That’s just the beginning of what can be exploited and sold. 

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What Could My Small Business Have that Hackers Want?

Small identity treasures at your small business lead to substantial hacker profit
Small identity treasures at your small business lead to substantial hacker profit. Getty Images

Lifewire.com: Max: so, you're saying that my small company's (email; finances; employee identities; other) are prime targets for hackers?  How so? What do they do with ​the information if they successfully steal it?

Max Nomad: 

Everything gets sold, exploited or exploited for resale. The possibilities are only limited by what’s available on the network – and a creatively criminal thinking. For example:

Personal Identifiable Information will always be a hot commodity. A stolen identity can be parlayed into a driver’s license, bank account, and credit cards. Products can be purchased illegally and sold on black market, including things like guns and prescription drugs. Terrorists and other criminal heavy-hitters thrive on this stuff.

Sensitive data can be sold to the competition, used as blackmail material or leaked to the press. 

Access to a company’s computing resources can also be sold. Many firewalls can block out entire countries to reduce spam. To get around this, hackers seek out small business networks within the continental USA. Since the security is often more lax, it’s easier to turn those computers into zombies – bypassing country-blocks while engaging in cyberattacks. 

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But, How Do I Afford Professional I.T. Security?

Professional I.T. security comes in various forms and price ranges
Professional I.T. security comes in various forms and price ranges. Isakson/Getty

Lifewire.com: Max: my company isn't rich, we barely make a few points on each sale.  How am I supposed to afford professional I.T. consultants to manage my network?  What can I realistically do to protect my company without breaking my stretched wallet?

Max Nomad:  

If your business depends on at least one computer, you need an IT person in your corner. Think of an IT consultant like an auto mechanic: If your business has a few delivery vans, that means you’ll need a mechanic more often than, say, a financial planner who sits in the office all day. In many respects, IT support works the same way. With ten or more computers you’ll have a need for an IT consultant at least once a week. The real value comes with having that person available in case of emergencies to keep your mission-critical computers online.

Anyone that wants to handle IT themselves should expect to spend a fair amount of time reading through books, videos, and reputable advice websites. One such website that I recommend is Experts Exchange (experts-exchange.com). If you can’t afford an IT professional this is the next best thing.

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OK, I Want Security Help. Where Do I Go?

A small local I.T. company can be good value
A small local I.T. company can be good value. Cultura/Gilera/Getty Images

Lifewire.com: Max: where do you suggest that readers go for more information?  Are there some resources online that you can recommend to better protect my small business?

 

Max Nomad: 

Quite candidly, this is one of the reasons why I wrote my book Surviving The Zombie Apocalypse: Safer Computing Tips for Small Business Managers and Everyday People. The advice will help readers better secure their small business networks.  

Although there are plenty of large IT consulting companies, my advice for small businesses is to seek out a local IT support service with five consultants or less. 

A good IT consulting firm should

•    Provide service references,
•    Prepare a Service-Level Agreement tailored to the needs of your office network,
•    Understand how to find the most cost-effective solutions based on your business needs,
•    Set up to monitor/manage your network from remote yet available to be in your office within 1 to 3 hours in case of emergency, 
•    Is flexible enough to either bill by the hour or provide blocks of support time – whichever better fits your budget and IT needs.

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Getting in Touch with Max Nomad in Virginia

Max Nomad, blogger and I.T. consultant
Max Nomad, blogger and I.T. consultant.

About Max:

Max Nomad is an IT Consultant, Graphic Designer and computer security researcher with over 20 years of experience using Internet technology to assist (and protect) small businesses. His advice on IT security has been featured in the Intuit (Quickbooks) Small Business Center, Hackbusters, eComTechnology, Cyber Defense Magazine and Frontline Safety & Security Magazine. He is also the author of Surviving The Zombie Apocalypse: Safer Computing Tips for Small Business Managers and Everyday People. A native of Virginia Beach, Virginia, he can be reached at https://www.linkedin.com/in/maxnomad

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