Small-business owners rely on technology to run their businesses more than ever before, from smartphone apps to websites to cloud computing. All of this technology use, however, dramatically raises the odds that a business will get hit by a cyber attack—and face potentially big losses and downtime because of it.
The National Small Business Association's 2013 Small Business Technology Survey looks at how business owners’ technology use and IT security concerns have changed over the past three years. Survey respondents included 845 business owners with fewer than 500 employees who took an online survey in August.
The survey found that business owners are increasingly using all sorts of technology to serve customers, accept payments and manage a remote workforce. For example, 74 percent of business owners surveyed now use a smartphone to run their business, compared with 57 percent in 2010. Far more (45 percent) now conduct meetings using online meeting tools such as WebEx, compared to just 18 percent in 2010. Fifty-nine percent now conduct calls and teleconferences using online technologies like Skype or Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service, compared to just 28 percent in 2010.
Interestingly, despite all this technology reliance, more business owners (27 percent, up from 9 percent in 2010) now handle IT and web site management themselves, rather than hire outside consultants, the survey found.
This boost in self-reliance and use of technology has led to greater fears over cyber security and the ability to prevent costly attacks by hackers or downloads of malware and other spyware programs that steal sensitive business information. NSBA found that 44 percent of respondents have been victims of a cyber attack, while 94 percent are “somewhat” or “very” concerned about them.
The average cost of an attack was about $8,700 and most were resolved within three days. However, 12 percent of victims said it took their business more than a week to recover.
The new survey’s findings mirror those of other recent reports that also show a marked increase in the number of cyber attacks targeted at small firms. Verizon's 2012 and 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report also found that the majority of data breaches on businesses occur at companies with fewer than 100 employees.
A recent Forbes article featuring IT security expert Vikas Bhatia looks at how small businesses can better protect their data and prevent cyber attacks. Among the tips: Use a password management program, such as LastPass to create stronger passwords; regularly backup data and store it off site; keep antivirus software up-to-date; and find out where and how your cloud-based data is stored to ensure it’s safe.
Read more articles on cyber security.
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