By Sarah Mehlman, Marketing Manager, SecBI

Let’s start with the obvious. No matter how large or small an organization, it faces daily cybersecurity threats.

Large enterprises can pour millions of dollars in their cybersecurity, whereas small businesses cannot. In the case of a breach, a large enterprise can hire a top-notch PR firm to mitigate the reputational damage and reassure customers, whereas a small business cannot. So, what does cybersecurity look like for local, small businesses that lack the financial resources of their larger competitors?

Trends in Cyberattacks

Contrary to what one would assume, small businesses are facing similar cyber threats and other types of malicious communications such as data exfiltration as large organizations. One of the most notable figures available is from the Ponemon Institute LLC’s 2018 State of Cybersecurity in Small & Medium-Size Businesses. It found 67% of small businesses in the U.K. and U.S. had experienced a cyberattack in the previous 12 months, up from 61% in 2017 and 55% the previous year. And out of those attacks, 31% of the breaches had unknown causes. More recently, according to the 2019 Travelers Risk Index, the percent of small businesses that have been the victim of a data breach or cyber event is up 200%.

Symantec Corporation reported small businesses were targeted by email malware and phishing at least as often as larger enterprises. And that in companies with fewer than 250 employees, a whopping 12.8% of emails contained malware. Additionally, a recent article in CNBC reported 43% of online attacks are now aimed at small businesses. Needless to say, that is where the similarities end between cybersecurity in large and small businesses.

Recovery after a Cyber Threat

Given that organizations of all sizes are facing similar threats (data exfiltration, phishing, malware), one must ask, how can small companies afford to combat these threats when security operations (SOCs) in large organizations lack proper funding. The simple answer is they can’t.

Large enterprises globally suffer from malicious communications’ dwell time of 78 days. With fewer security technical and human resources to effectively identify stealthy threats, small enterprises are presumed to suffer from longer dwell time of malicious communications.

Similarly, research suggests small businesses lack robust backup and recovery processes when compared to their larger counterparts. In fact, only 14% of small businesses are prepared to handle a cyberattack according to CNBC’s Scott Steinberg. In the case of a ransomware attack, 55% of small businesses and 74% of medium-sized businesses would pay the ransom. 39% of medium-sized businesses reported they would pay almost any price to recover their data according to research conducted by AppRiver.

And, it’s no wonder so many small businesses would pay a ransom at any cost to resecure their data as quickly as possible considering a survey conducted by KPMG found 58% of surveyed consumers said a breach would discourage them from trusting a business. When you don’t have resources to identify and mitigate a threat quickly or to hire a PR company to regain customers’ trust, what choice do you have but to pay any ransom and hope it’s enough to reduce the attack’s damage?

Improving Cybersecurity on a Limited Budget

According to Forbes article 10 Charts That Will Change Your Perspective Of AI In Security, “AI/ML based cybersecurity is no longer simply nice to have; it’s crucial to stop modern cyberattacks.” In the same piece, Forbes quotes research from the Capgemini Research Institute that “51% of enterprises primarily rely on AI for threat detection, leading prediction, and response.”

Why is this important? These statistics are crucial to understanding how small businesses, facing the same threats as large enterprises, need to adapt to better their network security. Until recently, AI and Machine Learning were considered bonuses in cyber. However, that is no longer the case, and businesses must change their mindset on the matter in order to protect the sensitive data in their networks.

Small (and medium-sized) businesses must begin investing in AI if they are to survive the ever-changing, stealthy threats hackers develop. AI and machine learning solutions, can mimic expert analysts and work 24/7 to enhance network protection. This means continuously analyzing billions of data points and events in order to recreate activities, identify complex behaviors, and detect a comprehensive narrative of an attack.

Of course, one must ask how that impacts a business’s bottom line. Believe it or not, it will actually be more cost-effective overall and improve the ROI of existing cybersecurity infrastructure.