Although cyberattacks on Sony and other major companies may grab headlines, industry leaders say that online thieves are increasingly targeting small businesses.
The Federal Communications Commission hosted a range of corporate cybersecurity experts on Monday to highlight steps that small businesses can take to protect their information.
Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that too many smaller companies just throw up their hands in surrender because they falsely believe that the situation is beyond their control.
“There’s a lot that businesses can do to protect themselves,” he said. As part of Monday’s roundtable, the FCC released a cybersecurity tip sheet for small businesses. Included on the list are such basic steps as training workers, securing Wi-Fi networks, using firewalls, controlling physical access to computers, and limiting employee access to information.
Maurice Jones, the CEO of a Washington-based construction company, said his business lost $92,000 to cybercriminals who gained access to the firm's bank accounts after an employee clicked on a link in a malicious e-mail. Small-business owners should train their workers to double-check everything to make sure that “things are what they seem to be,” he said.
There is a misperception that cybersecurity is simply an IT problem, said Ann Beauchesne, vice president of national security and emergency preparedness for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. She said that small businesses can use commonsense measures to take control of their networks.
“The message for small businesses is, yes, the Internet is a great tool, but you have to protect yourself,” she said.
A 2010 study by Symantec found that 74 percent of small and medium businesses were targeted by cyberattackers in the past year. FCC officials say that U.S. companies lose about $8 billion annually to cyberattacks, with the average attack on small businesses costing $188,242.
“While it is critical to secure the government and large industry from cyber threats, it is vital that cybersecurity for small business be in this equation,” said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. He said that cybersecurity is “one of the biggest challenges our country faces.”
The Internet and new technologies are vital tools for businesses but also pose significant threats that need to be taken into account and addressed, Chertoff said.
“We’re talking about managing cyber-risk, not eliminating cyber-risk,” he said. “You have to be realistic.”
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