Government trying to increase small business online security awareness

Nationwide, millions of small business owners might know full well that their companies face cyber security threats on a regular basis, but often take the attitude of, "This can't happen to my company." However, the federal government is now trying to do a little more to dissuade owners from taking that stance, and instead be more aggressive in dealing with these issues head-on.

To that end, the U.S. Small Business Administration recently launched a new website to help educate entrepreneurs about the risks they face every day, and what they can do to mitigate them whenever possible, according to a report from the agency. Indeed, data suggests that nearly half of all small companies have been hit by such attacks, and that number is likely growing. The average cost to such a company for dealing with the fallout from a data breach or other type of attack is about $9,000.

Online security is crucial to small business financial health.Online security is crucial to small business financial health.

Why is this a problem?
While any individual small business may not seem like something a hacker would target, owners need to keep in mind that the threat exists mostly because they cannot invest as heavily in security as their larger competitors can, the report said. While big companies make headlines for data breaches, that's because hackers often invest months in those attacks. Small business security systems, meanwhile, may take only a day or two to crack, meaning a smaller payout but far less time to get it.

"Cyber security is one of our nation's most pressing national security priorities, and America's 28 million small businesses, which create two out of every three new jobs in the U.S., are especially at risk.  Small employers are quickly becoming a larger target for criminals looking to access sensitive data because small businesses typically have limited resources for information systems security," said SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet. "In an effort to combat cyber attacks against small businesses, the SBA's online tools will help employers identify information security vulnerabilities that put their companies at risk."

What can be done?
Experts generally suggest that owners do as much as possible to constantly monitor and maintain security systems on an ongoing basis. By doing so, they may be able to spot vulnerabilities before they become more significant problems that could cost the companies thousand of dollars or more. Building these kinds of efforts into a firm's financial plan may result in significant long-term benefits.

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