Small Businesses: Bulls Eye for Smart Hackers

Hacking is a word shrouded in mystery. What do we really know about it? In its nascent stage, hacking was carried out by high ranking military organizations and the odd computer whiz-kid, nowadays though; it’s become a very mainstream operation, a specialized trade with varying degrees of expertise on offer. While for obvious reasons hackers are very elusive due to the delicate nature of the service they perform, more increasingly, they are offering these services to clients worldwide in exchange for money. The best bit though is that you have to approach them in their own backyard—the internet.

The absolute worst part about hacking though is how global hacking is. If an individual has the requisite knowledge, he or she could enter your computer system from thousands of miles away and manipulate it and everything in it according to his or her whim and fancy. That’s the scary bit about hackers, they could be anywhere. If a burglar breaks in to your house you know you can have the local authorities on his tail as soon as you find out, there’s a chance he hasn’t gone far. With hackers, they can start and finish from afar, completely out of your local law enforcements reach.

Hackers used to target government websites, big conglomerates and Fortune 500 companies, looking to make it rich quick, stick it to the man, or commit espionage at the international or corporate level. Since these big establishments took notice of these attempts and beefed up their security, hackers have now turned their attention to small business whose lack of online safety measures proves easier to penetrate.

Hackers have a variety of known avenues to explore against small businessmen

  • Phishing

Phishing is basically siphoning off confidential information about you, your clients, or anyone else you’re dealing with. Once the hacker has access to passwords for example, he can use your company’s official mail ID and send out an email to clients asking them to redirect their payment to his own personal bank account.

  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks

DDoS attacks basically involve overloading your server with synchronized attempts at accessing your website, this will result in your website shutting down temporarily, causing your business heavy losses due to lack of access. A rival firm could easily have your website attacked with a DDoS so that they can direct prospective clients towards themselves instead.

  • Watering Hole

Watering hole is basically the Trojan horse for hackers. Say you’re dealing with a big car manufacturer; they buy something innocuous as rubber grommets from your small business company. Remember, a big car manufacturer will have beefed up its internet presence against hackers, so it won’t be easy to access directly. They’ll place orders and process payments through your website, so they come onto it voluntarily, what hackers will do is infect your website, which due to a lack of resources, or a lack of awareness, or a false sense of security due to the innocuous nature of your company in the grand scheme of things, will not be equipped to keep him out. This way he gains access to the big manufacturer’s website, causing you to most certainly lose their business when it is traced back to you, and also probably lose your reputation meaning you won’t get any more business either.

Their options are only limited by their imagination and skills, so you can never know what a creative mind might concoct next. A quick web search showed this true account of a small business that had been a victim of a hacking. It was published on CNN Money, and the article called “Cyber attacks devastated my business!” went on to tell the story of a Michael Hopkins and Cate Costa’s online startup OnlyHonest.com. They were almost a year old when faced with a hack attack, and are one of 5 instances cited in that article. There are precautions however that could help protect you against such attacks. None of them are completely fool proof however, but combined together they provide a strong wall of protection.

Precautions to protect your website from hackers

  • Invest in antivirus, secure servers, web protection and strong firewalls.
  • Password-protect computers, Wi-Fi networks, and server access.
  • Inculcate an employee and system password reshuffle system following proper guidelines to create secure passwords.
  • Inculcate a backup program that is conducted regularly.
  • Create a protocol system in case of a security breach.
  • Get a security audit and follow recommendations thereof to the T.

Insurance companies will also offer something known as network security liability insurance or cyber insurance. The Hartford business insurance covers this under their Data Breach insurance protection. This is a sensible safeguard to take into consideration, as while it isn’t an active method to stop an attempted hack, if your web security is compromised, you will at least receive a decent amount of money so that you can give your business a timely impetus or adequately deal with the fallout that is usually a by-product of such an attack.

Elvis Donnelly is a father of two who works from home and lives with his wife. He is a voracious reader and likes to keep abreast of current affairs on personal finance, technology and innovation, and takes a keen interest in environmental issues. In his spare time, he loves taking on home improvement projects and considers himself a closet chef.