23rd April, 2024

8 Cybersecurity Threats for SMEs in 2024

Each year, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Australia and New Zealand face an increasing number of cybersecurity threats.

The threats have devastating consequences when left undetected. Repercussions include significant financial losses and long-term reputational damage.

Let’s take a look at how you can help protect you and your business from cybercriminals.

1. Phishing Attacks

One of the most prevalent cyberattacks facing SMEs is phishing scams. Phishing attacks involve cybercriminals impersonating trusted sources.

The goal is to trick users into clicking malicious links, downloading harmful files, or disclosing private company details.

Phishing attacks have become increasingly sophisticated — making them challenging to detect.

To protect against phishing attacks, SMEs should devise a strategy to protect their networks.

First, businesses can enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) for all accounts and services.

MFA requires users to verify their identity using additional login verification tools, such as fingerprint scans or one-time passcodes. 

Additionally, consider using a virtual private network (VPN). Most business owners may not know how to use a VPN for phishing protection. But the process is quite straightforward.

Simply subscribe to a VPN service and require employees to connect over the VPN to make the data they send and receive private. VPNs also include ad-blocking and anti-virus software to stop employees from clicking on malicious links.  

Cybersecurity for SMEs

2. Ransomware and Malware

Malware, especially ransomware, poses a significant threat to SMEs. If a company device or network is infected with ransomware, hackers will encrypt company data.

Businesses will then receive a demand for money to release the files. SMEs are vulnerable to ransomware attacks because they often don’t have data backup tools in place.  

To fight back against ransomware, SMEs should follow a zero-trust strategy . Zero trust means you follow the assumption that your network is always at risk for internal and external threats.

Only authenticated users and devices are allowed on the network. Cloud-based backup data storage solutions are also a must for businesses. 

3. Weak Passwords

Weak passwords are a common culprit that compromises the security of an entire organisation.

Using easy-to-guess passwords or never changing passwords will put your SME at risk. 

To strengthen password security, businesses should use a password manager. This tool offers encrypted password storage and helps automatically generate strong passwords.

4. Poor Patch Management

SMEs tend to have lax policies on applying software patches and updates.

Without the updates, businesses are susceptible to the latest cyberattacks. Hackers exploit known vulnerabilities to access sensitive information. 

Patch management can be improved by enabling automated updates and allowing systems to routinely scan for vulnerabilities.

Don’t forget to sign up for vendor alerts to get notifications about patches and updates.

Cybersecurity for SMEs

5. Insider Threats

Insider threats can often come as a surprise to SMEs. Such threats involve malicious or negligent cybersecurity actions taken by an employee or contractor.

The perpetrator may steal data or infect systems with malware. In some cases, the acts are unintentional, but the individual inadvertently shares sensitive information or falls victim to a phishing scam.  

To address insider threats, SMEs will want robust admin controls in place. The controls can limit employee access to sensitive data. Instead, employers can assign access based on their job roles.

For instance, a marketing associate doesn’t need to view files from human resources. Employees should also receive quarterly training on the risks and consequences of malware and phishing attacks.  

6. Third-Party Risks

Unlike larger corporations, SMEs often rely on third-party vendors and suppliers for support. The vendors may perform tasks like payment processing or remote IT support.

However, if a third-party vendor experiences a data breach, it can impact any contracted SMEs working with the company. 

SMEs should conduct thorough research when selecting vendors. Find out what cybersecurity practices they have and whether they have protocols in place in case of data breaches. 

Cybersecurity for SMEs

7. Cloud Security Threats

Most SMEs have utilised cloud-based services to accommodate the changing digital landscape.

However, businesses still need to be vigilant, as hackers can exploit weak controls or find vulnerabilities in cloud systems.

SMEs should implement strong access controls and encryption mechanisms like VPNs to enhance cloud security.

Cloud systems still require security solutions. Reach out to a managed service provider specialising in cloud systems to help better address cybersecurity threats.  

8. IoT Security Risks

Internet of Things (IoT) devices have made their way into homes and businesses.

The various smart cameras, speakers, thermostats, and security sensors we use daily may seem harmless, but cybercriminals can gain access to them and spy on a company’s network.

Once the system is hacked, the perpetrator can launch a malware attack.

Always regularly update IoT device firmware and software to patch any known vulnerabilities.

Device credentials should feature strong passwords and MFA. Don’t make IoT devices a part of critical business networks since they have known security issues. 

Some final thoughts

Although SMEs face various cybersecurity threats in 2024, companies have access to numerous protective tools to keep their businesses safe.

By using multi-factor authentication, VPNs, and patch updates, SMEs can significantly reduce their cyberattack susceptibility.

Always stay informed about the latest threats to safeguard your company data. 

Information provided in this article is of a general nature and does not consider your personal situation. It does not constitute legal, financial, or other professional advice and should not be relied upon as a statement of law, policy or advice. You should consider whether this information is appropriate to your needs and, if necessary, seek independent advice. This information is only accurate at the time of publication. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information contained on this webpage, MYOB disclaims, to the extent permitted by law, all liability for the information contained on this webpage or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.