In 2012 we saw the number of targeted attacks aimed at businesses with fewer than 250 employees double, climbing to 36% of all targeted attacks by mid-year. It will be remembered as the year that hackers identified SMEs as stepping stones into larger, more lucrative targets.
So, what’s expected of SME information protection in 2013? While targeted attacks against SMEs will not let up, we’ll see SMEs fall victim to not only other cyber conflict but also of their own lack of preparation.
Here are the seven SME trends Symantec recommends you keep in mind to protect your vital business information:
1. Ransomware is the new Scareware
As fake antivirus begins to fade as a criminal enterprise, a new and harsher model will continue to emerge – ransomware.
Ramsomware goes beyond attempting to fool its victims; it intimidates and bullies them. With the evolution of online payment methods, cybercriminals can now use force instead of flim-flam to steal from the victim’s.
We can expect the extortion methods to get harsher and more destructive in 2013, where attackers will use more professional ransom screens, up the emotional stakes to motivate their victims and use methods that make it harder to recover from an infection.
2. Cyber conflict becomes the norm
In 2013 and beyond, conflicts between nations, organisations and individuals will play a key role in the cyber world. Espionage can be very successful and deniable when conducted online. Any nation-state not understanding this previously has been given many examples in the last two years.
Nations or organised groups of individuals will continue to use cyber tactics in an attempt to damage or destroy secure information or funds, of its targets. In 2013, we will see the cyber equivalent of saber rattling, where nation-states, organisations and even groups of individuals use cyber attacks to show their strength and “send a message.”
3. The 100% virtualised SME becomes more common
Organisations will evaluate and adopt multiple hypervisors into their virtualisation and computing environments, as the market share of hypervisor vendors will begin to balance out between the largest vendors. This will lead to more SMEs becoming 100% virtualised. As a result, these SMEs will see a positive effect to their disaster preparedness.
4. Madware adds to the insanity
Mobile adware, or ‘madware’, is a nuisance that disrupts user experience and can potentially expose location details, contact information and device identifiers to cybercriminals. Madware sneaks onto a user’s phone when they download an app.
In the past nine months, the number of apps including the most aggressive forms of madware has increased by 210%. Because location and device information can be legitimately collected by advertising networks, we expect increased use in madware as more and more companies seek to drive revenue growth through mobile ads.
5. Monetisation of social networks introduces new dangers
Just like consumers, SMEs place a high level of trust in social media, with 63% of SMEs now using social networks to market their goods and services, and engage with customers. As these networks start finding new ways to monetise their platforms by allowing members to buy and send real or digital gifts, the growing social spending trend also provides cybercriminals with new ways to lay the groundwork for attack.
Symantec anticipates an increase in malware attacks that steal payment credentials in social networks and trick users into providing payment details, and other personal and potentially valuable information, to fake social network clients – which may include fake gift notifications and emails requesting home addresses and other personal information.
While providing non-financial information might seem innocuous, cybercriminals sell and trade this information with one another to combine with information they already have about you, helping them create a profile of you they can use to gain access to your other accounts.
These new dangers in social networks only compound the problem for SMEs, 87% of which do not have formal written Internet security policy for employees. Despite the fact that social networks are an increasingly popular vector for phishing attacks, 70% of SMEs do not have policies for employee social media use. In 2013, lack of security policy and best practices, such as educating employees, will come back to bite SMEs.
6. As users shift to mobile and cloud, so will attackers
Attackers will go where users go, so it should come as no surprise that mobile platforms and cloud services will be high-risk targets for attacks and breaches in 2013. The rapid rise in malware on Android in 2012 confirms this.
As unmanaged mobile devices and BYOD at companies of all sizes continue to enter and exit corporate networks, they pick up data and this info tends to become stored in other clouds, increasing the opportunity and risk for breaches and targeted attacks on mobile device data.
In 2013, mobile technology will continue to advance and thereby create new opportunities for cybercriminals.
7. Cloud outages get worse before getting better
There will be a significant increase in cloud outages in 2013, resulting in millions of rands lost. Yet companies will continue to pour resources into cloud offerings. The need to manage and protect data SMEs put in the cloud will lead to more adoption of backup and disaster recovery appliances and cloud service providers will begin to innovate more secure and efficient recovery of data and applications.
Companies of all sizes will need to adopt these better cloud management tools to protect their data because cloud outage problems will get worse before they get better – infrastructures that have scaled quickly with hand-written code and that utilise inefficient shared resources will result in major outages and some black eyes for the cloud computing market.
Symantec believes 2013 promises to be an exciting year for SMEs, but still want to preach caution. Technology is advancing at a pace that does not necessarily allow business to keep up, and this allows cybercriminals to exploit various facets of the business’ online activity. Identifying and making use of a security partner that meets your requirements will go a long way in protecting your business and its employees in 2013 and beyond.
We believe 2013 promises to be an exciting year for SMEs. Beyond the challenges you’ll face protecting information, you’ll also see great opportunities to leverage new technologies for the benefit of your business. We offer the following e-ssential tips:
- Know what you need to protect: One data breach could mean financial ruin for an SME. Look at where your information is being stored and used, and protect those areas accordingly.
- Enforce strong password policies: Passwords with eight characters or more and use a combination of letters, numbers and symbols (eg, # $ % ! ?) will help protect your data.
- Map out a disaster preparedness plan today: Don’t wait until it’s too late. Identify your critical resources, use appropriate security and backup solutions to archive important files, and test frequently.
- Encrypt confidential information: Implement encryption technologies on desktops, laptops and removable media to protect your confidential information from unauthorised access, providing strong security for intellectual property, customer and partner data.
- Use a reliable security solution: Today’s solutions do more than just prevent viruses and spam; they scan files regularly for unusual changes in file size, programmes that match known malware, suspicious e-mail attachments and other warning signs. It’s the most important step to protect your information.
- Protect information completely: It’s more important than ever to back up your business information. Combine backup solutions with a robust security offering to protect your business from all forms of data loss.
- Stay up to date: A security solution is only as good as the frequency with which it is updated. New viruses, worms, Trojan horses and other malware are born daily, and variations of them can slip by software that is not current.
- Educate employees: Develop Internet security guidelines and educate employees about Internet safety, security and the latest threats, as well as what to do if they misplace information or suspect malware on their machine.
How to Take Risks That Win (Almost) Every Time
Knowing which risks to take, and how to take them, can be extremely helpful in stacking the odds in your favour.
Looking 13,000 feet down out of an airplane, parachute pack secured, your heart beating in your throat, must be one of the most terrifying experiences imaginable. Though not all risks are life-threatening, all risks are frightening. As humans, we’re constantly afraid of failure, of doing something wrong and of having to deal with the consequences. Yet, at the same time, there is nothing more rewarding than reaping the benefits of a risk gone right – of landing safely ground, to build the earlier metaphor.
For entrepreneurs, risk taking is a necessity of the job. After all, we’re never quite positive that things are going to work out the way we envision. We make choices daily which affect our business, and we can never be absolutely sure that we’re making the right ones.
Knowing which risks to take, and how to take them, can be extremely helpful in stacking the odds in your favour. While risks are unavoidable, approaching them strategically can be the best way to decrease your parachute’s chances of failing, so to speak, and to produce measurable results that you would never have achieved had you avoided the risk in the first place.
In order to hone your risk-taking skills, here are some guidelines:
1. Information is your friend
The more knowledge you have about any given topic, the less risky your endeavours will ultimately be. For example, many of the most steadily successful brokers on Wall Street are those who understand the patterns of the market better than anyone else. While there are always going to be those people who make millions off a risky uninformed bet, they are the same people who most likely will lose all their earnings on a single trade. Traders who build a sustainable career for themselves are the ones that have deep knowledge of the industry.
Similarly, you should be an expert in your field. You should know your industry well – your product or service you are providing. You should understand the buying patterns of consumers, their motivation and pain points. What drives them to buy your products? Where and when do they buy? What makes them stop buying?
As an entrepreneur – or in any profession that requires risks, really – you’ll want to have as much information as possible. The more you know, the fewer unknowns there are. The unknowns, ultimately, are what makes an action risky.
2. Assess the risk carefully
While risk is a reality of life, there is also something to be said for strong assessment skills. Being able to look at a risky situation and decide whether or not it’s worth taking is a hallmark of a good businessperson.
Venture capital investors, for example, spend their entire careers deciding which companies are worth risking time and money on. Those who throw their money around recklessly, while admirable for their risk-taking, are not necessarily the most successful investors.
Being a good risk-taker involves using the information you have to assess a situation and decide whether or not the risk is worth it.
3. Learn from failure
Appreciate that all risks are learning experiences. Especially those that don’t pan out.
On some accounts, failure is actually more valuable than success. While failures may not lead to an increase in your bottom line, you can use the opportunity to glean important information about what you’ve done wrong, where you misstepped and how you can move forward in the future.
The biggest mistake many people make is seeing failure as a measure of who they are, rather than a measure of where they can go. We’ve all heard that failure is feedback. Most successful entrepreneurs failed at many ventures before they created that million-dollar offering. Most overnight successes took many years to make. If you take a risk and fail, learn from it. Ask yourself what you can do differently next time, and then move on. The only failure is not learning the lesson that it provides and using it to hone your next endeavour.
According to Mark Zuckerberg, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”
Taking risks is the only way to go from here to there. Even failed risks move you closer to your goals if you can turn that failure into valuable learning and a plan for improve your results next time.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
Are You Focusing Too Much On The Little Details (And Forgetting The Bigger Picture)?
To what degree do outside influences impact your business’s success? As a business owner, should you be focused on your business, or taking a macro view of the world?
Entrepreneurs live in the daily grind of their businesses. This is unavoidable but can often be fatal. Day to day we think that the little things matter more than the very big things do. A little thing like the floor of your office or store being mopped daily can become a huge issue if not done.
Sure, these things are important because they create a culture of care and pride, but what you might be missing while you watch your team mop the floors is the macro-economic climate shifts that happen more rapidly than you think.
Step back to move forward
Early in the life of a new business the only way to survive is for the founders to do absolutely everything. From designing a logo and launching a strategy all the way through to writing tweets and emailing customers when there are issues.
This makes sense when you’re building a business, your team is small and your cash is tight. However, as you grow, it becomes important to let your people do their best and take on the day to day work.
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As an obsessive entrepreneur it’s often hard to let go of these little details. Day to day operations will always be integral to the growth of your business and an important part of someone’s job in your organisation. However, it shouldn’t be yours if you are taking care of the big picture.
As the leader of your business you need to take a step back from the grind and look at the world around you.
To truly understand the positioning of your growing business you need to understand your country, continent and world.
You should understand the economic position you’re in as well as that of your province, country and even the markets that might directly influence your sales. Get a good understanding of the political stability of your country and the world.
Finally, you should figure out if there are any large- scale impending disasters. If disaster is imminent, like Zuma pillaging a nation and tanking an economy, then you have to get your head out of the floor mopping and into the high-level strategy of survival and preparation for disaster.
Move the needle
Every day there are 24 hours that you can fill. You can choose to work during that time and faff with the things that were once important, or you can figure out what is going to move the needle in your business.
What is going to really help you survive and grow in the years to come? Founders, CEOs and leaders need to be thinking about the next three, five and ten years. Let your team worry about today. Let the smart people you work with make today and tomorrow and next week work.
Chances are, the things you are doing in the hours/minutes aren’t saving your business or moving the needle. It’s the things that you plan for the next six months that affect the next five years.
Don’t live in a bubble
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you live in an isolated country or region that isn’t affected by world events. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you close your eyes and hide your head under the pillow you can’t avoid the fact that your business exists in a globally connected environment.
At Nic Harry we were affected by the Brexit events that unfolded in the UK and Europe. British shoppers were scared and didn’t spend their money when they were on holiday in Cape Town over the peak holiday season. I was so busy preparing for the seasonal uptick that I missed the link between a huge global event and my sales.
You live in a world that is filled with online shoppers and tourists who visit your business whether you know it or not. Prepare for the world to start having an effect on your business more and more.
Broaden your view
I am always fascinated by the narrow view of the world many entrepreneurs display. I may sell men’s socks, accessories and style but that doesn’t mean that the mining sector doesn’t affect my business.
Even if you were an entrepreneur building a business in Antarctica I would urge you to read about oil prices, political world events and the intricacies of overfishing in the South American seas. Being well rounded and having a broad view of the world and your business can only make you a more robust thinker who sees more angles to exploit, protect against and thrive on.
Why Adversity Is Actually The Best Thing For Your Business
There’s been a lot of talk about privilege lately: What is it? Who has it? Who doesn’t have it? I have a slightly different take on privilege and prefer to frame it as the privilege of adversity.
Studies across the globe show that the minorities in all contexts have higher rates of entrepreneurial activity than the incumbent majority. There are a host of reasons for this, but one of them is that adversity creates resilience and self-reliance that are vital for entrepreneurial success.
Every successful and exponentially successful entrepreneur that I have met or read about has transitioned through a baptism of fire. They have overcome insurmountable obstacles and used the lessons gifted through their experiences to rocket their business to the next level.
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The Five Gifts Of Adversity
A sense of where your true limits are. These are always far beyond what your belief system believed them to be. The experience of testing your limits breaks the preconceived notion of where your limits are or were.
Confidence. Once you have overcome an issue, the experience of overcoming it builds a high level of confidence that should the issue reoccur, you will have the ability and resources to overcome it. For example, if you lose your biggest client and manage to keep your business afloat, the next time you lose a big client you will not panic or become despondent, but will instead kick into action and claw your way out again.
Insight. Insight as to which of your non-financial resources you can tap into. When the chips are down and money is nowhere to be found, it’s amazing how many resources you will now perceive around you that can potentially help you transition to success. These resources come in the form of advice from friends, access to new markets through networks, credit from suppliers, and free promotion through networks, to name a few.
Your relationship with your own resourcefulness. The experience of not having resources but somehow manufacturing some out of thin air, recalibrates your sense of your own resourcefulness, which in turn builds a level of confidence that should you be dropped off in the middle of the desert with only a matchbox and a magnifying glass, you will survive.
Faith. A level of faith and a belief system that there is always a way to overcome a problem. This is true no matter how overwhelming the problem may be. The more you overcome impossible problems, the less you’ll believe in the existence of impossible problems.
So instead of worrying about who has privilege, who doesn’t, or what privilege actually is, use the lessons gifted to you when overcoming insurmountable obstacles to propel your business forward.
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