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The scope, sophistication, and cost of cybercrimes have grown astronomically over the past decade. Fast-evolving sophisticated cyberattacks involving cryptocurrency, artificial intelligence (AI), phishing, and malware have the cybersecurity industry on high alert. The vast majority of businesses all over the world have been victimized by cybercriminals at some point.

According to the 2019 Global Risk Report by the World Economic Forum, data breaches and cyber threats are some of the most serious risks. The thing about cybercriminals is that they don’t discriminate based on size. All businesses, large and small, can be attacked. In fact, small businesses, including start-ups, remain the silent majority when it comes to cyberattacks. 43 percent of all cyberattacks target small and medium-sized enterprises.

Cybersecurity Risks Facing Start-Ups

The internet allows start-ups to use online tools such as cloud computing to reach new and larger markets from any location. However, reliance on digital tools also increases the risk of data theft. A lot of start-up entrepreneurs assume that their businesses are safe from cyberattacks because they don’t have any theft-worthy data. That can’t be further from the truth.

Start-ups have intellectual property, customer records, employee information, etc., all of which can be targeted by hackers. Here are some of the most common cybersecurity risks facing start-ups in 2020.

  • Data breaches. Any incident leading to the loss or exposure of sensitive company data can be referred to as a data breach. Data breaches are often caused by insufficient data protection measures and involve the loss or theft of login credentials, credit card details, customer information, employee records, et cetera.
  • Ransomware. Ransomware, a type of malware that encrypts your system files, can bring your start-up’s operations to a screeching halt. Hackers use technologies that enable them to hijack your start-up’s database and hold all of the data for ransom. Forbes projects a 300% increase in ransomware attacks in 2020, mostly targeting small businesses.
  • Phishing. In a phishing attack, hackers transmit carefully targeted emails to trick recipients into exposing sensitive information or clicking on a link or attachment that can install malicious code on the network. The goal is to fraudulently obtain information such as credit card credentials and user logins. Phishing emails are the most common way for hackers to spread malware.

Cyberattacks targeting small businesses and start-ups have increased in recent years, often with catastrophic outcomes. The loss or destruction of data, sustained system outage, ransoms, and potential lawsuits following a successful attack will set back a small business an average of $200,000.

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Protecting Your Start-Up

As a start-up entrepreneur, the rise of cybercrime should not stop you from utilizing online resources, but it should definitely encourage you to step up your cybersecurity game. Start-ups have the responsibility of ensuring the security of client data. There are dozens of ways to enhance cybersecurity and protect your start-up from digital intrusion.

  • Risk assessment. Understanding the risks facing your start-up is the first step to protecting your business. This exercise will help you identify, quantify, and prioritize the risks and vulnerabilities in your system, and how to prepare against them.
  • Keep your software up to date. Hackers develop new types of threats every day. Adopt a proactive approach by keeping your operating system and security software up to date. This will help you stay protected from emerging cyberthreats.
  • Secure your Wi-Fi network. You need to make sure that your office Wi-Fi network is encrypted, secure, and hidden. Using a VPN router is one of the most effective ways to protect your Wi-Fi network from threats such as MITM, DDoS, and malware.
  • Backup your data. A good backup strategy is vital to IT security. Backing up your data securely allows you to restore lost or destroyed data after an attack. In case of a breach, you can quickly restore your data and get back to business.
  • Hire IT services. One of the biggest challenges for start-up entrepreneurs is the lack of resources to develop a robust cybersecurity infrastructure. Hiring cybersecurity services from a company that specializes in IT security gives you a convenient and reliable way to protect your start-up’s data.
  • Employee Training. Most data breaches and cyberattacks are caused — in part — by unaware or negligent employees. Employee training is essential for cybersecurity. Today, a large number of cyberattacks leverage employees’ lack of awareness. Having untrained employees increases your start-up’s vulnerability to these attacks.

Cybercrime is growing at a tremendous rate and is currently one of the biggest challenges facing businesses globally. Start-ups and small businesses are a favourite target for cybercrooks. As a start-up entrepreneur, you have a duty to protect company data from cybercriminals. There are dozens of ways to go about enhancing start-up cybersecurity, the objective is to use various cybersecurity tools at your disposal to create a layered approach to IT security.

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Sarah Anna

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