Entrepreneurs might well be the latest heroes in cyberwarfare. Despite increasing odds of malicious attacks, SMB owners are forging ahead with a newfound sense of security.
Untangle’s fourth annual SMB IT Security Report, released Oct. 7, shows that SMBs have adapted to a changing work environment, addressed an influx of cyberattacks, and defined their approach to IT Security.
Researchers surveyed more than 740 small-to-medium-sized businesses. This is the largest pool of respondents to date.
Some of the findings seem to fly in the face of other industry reports.
The Untangle study found that even with limited budget and resources, SMBs have implemented foundational strategies to address network security issues. SMBs also laid the groundwork for future investments in the process.
Eighty percent of respondents shared a sense of feeling more secure now versus last year; likely attributable to the trend of more small businesses with less than 25 employees making investments in IT.
The large majority of respondents feeling more secure this year is backed up by the fact that SMB’s have higher annual IT security budgets than those surveyed in previous years, according to Scott Devens, CEO at Untangle.
“Looking at even the smallest companies, those with under 25 employees in 2020, only 28 percent had annual budgets of $1,000 to $5,000 compared to 35 percent in 2021, and 64 percent spend more than $1,000 on IT security, up from 41 percent in 2020; and there is a greater understanding of the gravity of attacks,” he told TechNewsWorld.
With cyberattacks continuing to grow, the headline news is driving more companies, including SMBs, to pay attention to potential threats and take measures to protect themselves against them, Devens added. SMBs realize that they are also targets of cyberattacks and are looking at IT security from a problem/solution standpoint.
For example, significantly more than half (64 percent) of those surveyed name breaches as their top security concern. Most companies recognize firewalls (73 percent) and antivirus/anti-malware protection (62 percent) as their top IT security solutions, according to the report.
SMBs are also starting to rely on cloud solutions. Recognizing the need for digital transformation, 58 percent of SMBs have deployed more than one-tenth of their IT infrastructure in the cloud. That is a 32 percent increase from 2020.
Untangle previously found that SMB’s had general security concerns and did not have a clear understanding of cloud security. That lead them to worry about losing control when systems were not on-premises, Devens explained.
Despite that progress, barriers to cybersecurity continue to bring more SMBs to the security table. Employees who do not follow guidelines have become the top barrier to IT security. Notwithstanding some budget increases, many organizations still struggle with spending constraints and the lack of manpower to monitor and manage security.
New business locations are a driving factor in the need to deploy software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology to connect local area networks that are separated by a substantial distance. This has led to more than 20 percent of SMBs implementing some type of SD-WAN framework, while another 19 percent have plans to implement or investigate it.
Even though companies have been investing more in IT security, barriers persist for SMBs. Employees who do not follow guidelines have become the top roadblock to IT security (28 percent).
The last two years have seen employees shift between working remotely and the office. Of the SMBs surveyed, half of the businesses now have most of their employees working back in the office. However, in keeping with the current workplace transformation trend, 41 percent have transitioned a quarter or more of their workers to hybrid work permanently.
SMBs realize that they are also targets of cyberattacks, not just large businesses, and are looking at IT security from a problem/solution standpoint, Devens observed. With 64 percent naming breaches as their top security concern, it is understandable that most companies recognize firewalls and antivirus/antimalware protection as the top IT security solutions.
“By making this data available, we are giving SMBs the ability to learn from each other, see what other similar businesses are concerned about, and see how other SMBs are adapting,” said Devens.
Regardless of SMBs’ newfound comfort zone for cybersecurity, one of the biggest threats still lurking is ransomware attacks. An August report by Atlas VPN revealed ransomware attacks are up 151 percent in the first half of 2021, compared to the same time in 2020.
The United States is the most ransomware threatened country by a significant margin, with 227.3 million ransomware attack attempts. The second-most targeted businesses were in the U.K., with 14.6 million ransomware attack attempts.
“Ransomware attacks are a severe problem that terrorizes many organizations or government agencies, causing national danger. As many people neglect basic cybersecurity rules, they become easy targets for cybercriminals. Improving people’s cybersecurity awareness and preparedness is a must if companies want to reduce ransomware attacks,” William Sword, cybersecurity researcher at Atlas VPN told TechNewsWorld.
Staying Alert and Prepared Essential
Cyberdefenses are becoming more reliable since last year’s report. As cybersecurity vendors come up with innovative new solutions to guard against ransomware, phishing and data breaches are cybersecurity adversaries are working just as hard to break down those solutions and find new ways to get ahead of those vendors, Untangle’s Devens added.
“Keeping bad actors at bay is a continual cat and mouse game. Bad actors will continue to find ways around even the most innovative new technologies. Keeping up with the latest new technologies is necessary to ensure that defenses stay strong,” he said.
“SMBs are starting to move their IT infrastructure into the cloud. Recognizing the need for digital transformation, given the changes and challenges of the last year and a half, 58 percent of SMBs have deployed more than 10 percent of their IT infrastructure in the cloud. That is a 32 percent increase from 2020.
“With a changing workplace landscape and a continued rise in cyberattacks, SMBs have shifted their mindset from “It can’t happen to me” to taking security threats seriously,” Devens explained.
“To that end, they have increased their focus on IT Security, they have stronger networks than a year ago, and have plans for further attack-prevention for the future. There is a definite trend towards putting more IT in the cloud and following a multi-layered security approach.”