Why Hackers Target Small and Medium Size Businesses?
Let me get straight to the point and answer the ominous question that titles this article. Why do hackers target small and medium sized businesses? Truth be told, it’s because they can, they do and they will continue to, particularly targeting SMBs and website owners that have not secured their online assets with a professional cybersecurity solution.
Let’s look at some of the challenges SMBs face in today’s age of cybercrime, data leaks, website breaches, and technology’s constant advancement, particularly in relation to the cybersecurity and data protection concerns SMBs face and with current GDPR requirements.
The Challenge At Hand: Website & Data Security of SMBs
In all honesty, a small business is not likely to invest resources, time or much effort in securing their data and assets. Most SMBs are busily focused on generating sales and leveraging revenue so that their operations run smoothly and their business grows. And why shouldn’t they be? That’s why businesses are established – to be profitable. Focusing on business growth should always be the primary objective of owners.
But, what happens when SMBs overlook GDPR requirements or don’t have the knowledge, awareness or skills to secure their website effectively? The back door of a company’s online collateral, platforms, website(s) and sensitive data is opened to hackers worldwide, and the damage of a breach is often irreversible. So if securing your online data and assets isn’t a critical aspect of growing your business, well then what is?
Hackers Do Business on the Dark Web, Violating SMBs’ Data & Financial Assets
In today’s evolving age of technology, there are online venues like the dark web that make hacker know-how, skill sharing, and the sale of a business’ valuable data easy and accessible. With code’s rapid development and the evolution of automated bots that hack sites in seconds, it’s extremely simple for cyber criminals to breach thousands of websites daily and compromise connected and online systems’ sensitive data, brand and reputation.
In some scenarios, companies’ websites crash with the breach, and are violated and tampered with, often leading to ransom payment threats with high price tags. Hackers frequently demand sizable payment from SMBs and site owners in exchange for the business reacquiring control of their online assets – be it their website, data, access to their WordPress website login, complete or partial databases, and more.
Majority of times, most business owners lack understanding of hackers’ motivation to pursue a simple brand’s website that has seemingly little to no special data or financial assets. This ongoing misconception of SMBs and small site owners perpetuates a cycle of cybercrime that can only be deterred with professional, feasible and appropriate cybersecurity solutions for their site(s) or platform(s).
Imagine the following series of events played out in real-time, or even gradually at different points of time, and the painful repercussions for SMBs or site owners, along with their clientele:
- A hacker manages to infiltrate your website and accesses sensitive data in the backend of your website, code or otherwise.
- With multiple sites hacked at once, the back door to a larger scale cyber attack is now opened to cyber criminals. How?
- Each website or system that’s hacked becomes an integral part of a hacker’s tactical cyber weaponry.
- When a hacker “connects the dots” between each site, and then accesses sensitive data, tampers with code and automates various forms of breaches with bots, the possibilities for large scale breaches increase. So much so that large scale breaches and cybercrime are realized and can affect an entire community of SMBs and site owners in seconds.
- Breached websites can develop into a hacker’s paradise: crashing one server, or a network of several servers at once; the more damage, the better for the hacker. They thrive off of creating communal network havoc.
- The dark web, the internet’s dreary underworld that often serves as a collaborative hub for cyber criminals, is where hackers frequently sell or rent breached data, leading to further complications and compromise of a business’ assets, GDPR compliance, and can ultimately incur serious business and reputational damage.
Some unfortunate aftermaths of today’s SMB cybersecurity negligence:
- Websites that aren’t protected risk fines for being incompliant with GDPR standards and requirements.
- SMBs often can’t afford enterprise cyber defense technology, so they choose to bypass the entire process of securing their site and its data.
- 60% of SMB’s go out of business after a cyber attack, and worse yet, they could find their reputation permanently tarnished, with fines, debt and legal repercussions due to leaked data and breach of privacy laws.
So, How Do Hackers Make their Miserable Magic Happen?
Once upon a time, hackers were busily targeting each victim manually, one by one. Today, 90% of web breaches are automated with bots or other digitalized tools enabling the penetration of websites and performing vulnerability scans. Traced vulnerabilities provide bots and other automated technology with gateways to hack one or several sites, as cyber criminals exploit these bugs or vulnerabilities to leverage their activities.
The process itself is actually frighteningly simple:
- Hackers search Google for lists of specific platforms and websites developed on WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, .NET and more.
- They then target these sites with specific tools to exploit them.
- Once the bot or technology identifies vulnerabilities, backdoor code is easily injected into the site’s backend.
- The hacker then inserts their credentials, and sadly, your website isn’t really yours anymore. It has now become a vehicle for continued cybercrime.
Most times, site or business owners won’t even be able to tell that their website’s been breached, mainly because hackers aren’t interested in making it easy for you to identify a concern. They simply want to exploit your site and continue to use it as a vehicle for further damage to the online community and to bolster their progress.
Some of the damages a hacked site can incur include:
- Decreased website rankings that lower your online presence.
- Inhibited SEO and individual’s ability to find your business with relevant searches on Google becomes difficult and lowers your chances to generate leads, gain site traffic and generate conversions/sales.
- Hackers can redirect funds from purchases on your website to their own pockets, or even onto credit cards and virtual wallets that are encrypted and make fraud and financial theft more difficult to trace.
- Hackers can also use your server as their own to gain monthly revenue from their own twisted activities, like: phishing attacks, duplicating PayPal content and redirecting traffic for financial fraud and data collection, uploading Bitcoin miners, storing malware to infect other websites, pornography site hosting and more.
- Prolonged damage that results from strategic bot infrastructures is common and damaging.
Most times, the only way site or business owners are made aware that their website has been hacked is by the hosting company that alerts them of spam and malware generation and distribution coming from the website. Or, in the worst case scenario, Google blacklists the website and all site or platform users are notified – not a pleasant situation. In this case, if your website was breached some time ago, and your site backup is now infected, recovery of backed up data will simply re-infect your site or platform. For full website recovery, malware must be removed, and closing the back doors to your site from other threats really isn’t that simple.
The next steps to see your site functioning as it should is to update all website components, (such as plug-ins, passwords, core WordPress or platform versions), keep website admins up to date, and potentially even move your site to a new server.
Once your site’s fully recovered, best practice is to implement a maintenance plan, update all plug-ins, patch all software components on a weekly basis, and use a malware scanner daily to identify breaches or threats.
Above all else take preventative measures to protect your site and data. Install a WAF plug-in to deter and mitigate cyber attacks, hackers and bots, data leakages, and unnecessary damages that can be avoided with the right solution.
For more information about a comprehensive recovery process, contact us, or get started by downloading our plug-in to secure your site and identify concerns today.