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The Confident SMB

SMBs – No Longer Invisible to the Bad Guys

Created: 03 Apr 2013 • Updated: 15 Apr 2013
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How can you protect the information that’s driving your business if you don’t know what you’re protecting it from? How can you reduce the risk of passing this risk on to your customers, and potentially your large business partners? One of the most fundamental ways to protect your business is to know what you need to protect it from. Knowing the enemy is the goal of Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR), Volume 18 and, according to the new report, criminals view SMBs as a prime target for stealing information. In fact, 31 percent of all targeted attacks are now directed at those with 250 employees or less, a threefold increase from 2011. This is especially concerning given the 2011 SMB Threat Awareness Poll, which showed that half of SMBs don’t consider themselves a target for attacks.

Cybercriminals are targeting customer information, financial details and intellectual property. They are attacking smaller businesses because they increasingly lack sufficient protection, and sometimes use them as a stepping stone to larger targets. 2012 saw a 30 percent increase in Web-based attacks, and it’s possible many of these used the compromised website of a small business to attack a larger organization. One notable example of these “watering hole” attacks infected 500 businesses in a single day.

Cybercriminals’ Tactics Are Evolving

Hackers and other malicious parties have more ways than ever to spy on us, through computers, mobile devices and social networks. Any information they glean, from banking details to email addresses of associates, can be used in stealing identities and crafting further sophisticated attacks. These are most commonly targeting knowledge workers and employees in sales, with their access to intellectual property and other sensitive information.

One rising threat to watch for is ransomware, which locks users out of their computer through malware that is difficult to remove. Often contracted from an infected website, the ransomware won’t release control of the machine until the user pays a fee, in the $50 to $400 range. This is proving a lucrative area of cybercrime, generating at least $5 million per year according to Symantec’s whitepaper, Ransomware: A Growing Menace.

Mobility Is an Important Battleground

SMBs are taking advantage of the productive benefits of mobility, and smartphones and tablets are now regularly storing and accessing business data. With the market growing by leaps and bounds, a constant stream of new apps and ways to share information, mobile devices are attracting the attention of cybercriminals. Mobile malware increased by 58 percent in 2012, and 32 percent of all mobile threats steal information. Mobile vulnerabilities are on the rise as well, with a 30 percent increase last year. While iOS had the most vulnerabilities identified (387), however, there was only one threat. Android, by contrast, had 13 vulnerabilities but suffered from a larger number of threats, likely because of the open nature of the platform and the relative ease of app distribution.

Continuing Trends to Watch in SMB Security

In the coming months and years, we anticipate that techniques currently being used to attack large enterprises and government entities for commercial gain will be employed against SMBs, such as zero-day exploits. It also appears that malware originating from websites will become both more common and more dangerous, and the maturing mobile market will continue to drive more threats targeting these devices. Continually expanding social networks will also continue to drive sophisticated phishing attacks.

The ISTR shows that the threats against today’s SMBs aren’t going away; in fact, they’re showing constant growth. Gaining a clear picture of the dangers is an important step in improving security, and this year’s report is a wake-up call that SMBs are now being specifically targeted by cybercriminals. Begin now to assess your current state of readiness to handle the threats outlined here, and work with your vendors to close any gaps in your protection.