Presented by Verizon

By: Mike Caralis, Vice President of Verizon Business Markets

The emergence of the distributed workforce accelerated the digitalization of small and midsize businesses. More than half of small businesses (53%) upgraded their bandwidth this year, according to Verizon’s State of Small Business Survey. More than three-quarters (77%) of small and midsize businesses (SMBs) either are currently using social media marketing or are planning to. While digital transformation can offer tremendous advantages, ranging from streamlined operations to new revenue opportunities, small businesses must protect their digital operations to reap the benefits without undue risk. Unfortunately, many small businesses aren’t doing that.

As these businesses invest in digital tools to drive operations, they have not implemented cybersecurity solutions and protocols proportionate to their investment in digital tools. Only a third of small to midsize businesses have implemented security systems, and almost half (45%) don’t even train their employees on cybersecurity practices — a glaring oversight, especially given Verizon’s 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) revealed that the “human element” accounted for the vast majority of security incidents and nearly three quarters (74%) of full breaches.

The cybersecurity risk for small and midsize businesses is amplified by the fact that the second-most common attack pattern hackers used in the last year against SMBs was social engineering, in which users are manipulated into divulging sensitive or confidential information. In other words, this pattern largely depends on human error, whether it’s through baiting a network user to click on a malicious link or pretending to be a trusted person or organization in order to acquire valuable information or gain network access.

To overlook cybersecurity could prove costly to small businesses continuing to digitize their operations. According to the 2023 DBIR, the median cost per ransomware more than doubled over the past two years to $26,000, with 95% of incidents that experienced a loss costing between $1 million and $2.25 million. With ransomware, a hacker can hold a small business’ network hostage until a large sum is paid, assuming the threat actors hold their end of the deal; and if you’re a merchant with an e-commerce business, you can hardly afford extended downtime heading into the holiday season. 

The discrepancy between digitalization and cybersecurity is due in part to a misunderstanding of the risks. For example, nearly half (45%) of small businesses are concerned about integrating AI solutions, and 43% are worried AI tools will expose them to cybersecurity risks. The real risk, however, is failing to secure as you shift to digital.

The good news is there are plenty of things that small businesses can do to protect themselves. As we mentioned above, human error poses a big cybersecurity risk, and since many social engineering attacks are low-tech, training employees on common phishing, smishing and pretexting tactics can go a long way toward defending against these kinds of attacks.

In this era of digitalization and the hybrid work model, device management has become a key to the effectiveness and security of small business operations. Managing disparate devices, both personal and professional, while limiting network access according to role, authentication, etc. can be daunting. Luckily, there are managed services that can greatly simplify that process while helping to bolster security.

For cybersecurity to be effective, small businesses must prioritize it. And for small businesses to prioritize it, they must understand its value. Cybersecurity is an investment in the long-term growth of your business. Consider the following: cyberattacks spike during the holiday season. Why? Because the surge in transactions attracts hackers. The more your business grows, the more lucrative it becomes. The more lucrative it becomes, the more attention it attracts. Cybersecurity isn’t just insurance. It’s a growth strategy.

Visit Verizon’s Small Business Solutions page for information on cybersecurity and connectivity solutions for small businesses.