Small and medium size businesses are vulnerable

Apr 17, 2009 6:59pm

By Michael Kaiser, NCSA Executive Director

At NCSA, one of our major focus areas is encouraging small and medium size businesses to do more to secure their business data, customer data, and intellectual property. Sometimes it's easy for a small or medium size company to think we really don't have anything of value, we are small and we won’t be target, or the cost of securing our systems is not worth it.

That’s a dangerous mindset.

Cybercriminals can see tremendous value in the businesses of all sizes. It could be a list of customers along with their credit cards number, home address and other personal information; a list of log on information and passwords to the banks and other vendors that a company uses; it could be intellectual or proprietary information that is the foundation of an entrepreneurial endeavor. What small and medium size businesses might not know is that sometimes cybercriminals harvest information from a number of companies and resell it to other criminals. Even worse, cybercriminals know that these smaller operations are softer, easier targets because they pay less attention to cyber security then large financial institutions and ecommerce sites that are constantly attacked and heavily defended.

A recent survey by Symantec (full disclosure Symantec is an NCSA Board Member), exposes some of the vulnerabilities of small and medium size businesses.  The survey found that: 

  • Forty-two percent of SMBs do not have an antispam solution.
  • Almost half do not backup their desktop PCs, leaving their important information at risk.
  • One-third of SMBs do not have the most basic protection of all -- antivirus protection.

NCSA’s research indicates that home users are actually doing a better job in this regard. More than 80% of home users we surveyed have up to date antispyware and antivirus running on their systems, although only 42% had firewalls turned on.

To truly create a broad based web enabled economy, we need small and medium size business. They employ more people, are vital to the communities they operate in, and are often the hotbed of new and exciting ideas. They do need to start taking cyber security more seriously and implement the basic tools to strengthen their defenses.

At NCSA we hope to work more closely with this community moving forward.

SSO (Stay Safe Online)