Survey: Small Businesses Vulnerable To Hackers

Most, However, Think They're Safe From Cyber Attacks

Small Businesses Vulnerable To HackersNew data released jointly by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and software firm Symantec reports that 83% of small businesses lack a specific plan to combat attacks launched through viruses or by hackers. Of the 1,015 small businesses surveyed, 77% of respondents think they are safe from cyber attacks, even though studies demonstrate their vulnerability. In fact, 40% of all recorded cyber attacks in the first three months of 2012 were targeted at companies with 500 or fewer employees, according to Symantec.

"We want U.S. small businesses to understand they cannot completely remain safe from cyber-threats if they do not take the necessary precautions," NCSA executive director Michael Kaiser said. "A data breach or hacking incident can really harm small businesses and unfortunately lead to a lack of trust from consumers, partners and suppliers."

While three out of four respondents believe cyber security is key to protecting their company's brand, 87% admit they don't have a formal Internet usage policy for employees. In addition, 70% of small businesses have no social media usage policies, data shows. The vast majority (90%) of respondents say they have never disciplined staff members for Internet security or privacy violations.

While the overall security trend is concerning to experts, there is evidence that more recently established small businesses are becoming more vigilant. Companies founded after 2008 are nearly 20% more likely than older small businesses to have a written cyber security plan, the NCSA/Symantec survey indicates.

Analysts suggest small businesses can improve their cyber security by taking these four steps: enforcing strong password policies; encrypting confidential information; keeping anti-virus software updated; and educating employees about how they should protect key data.