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Cybersecurity for Small Businesses

By: Thomas A. Stith III
SBA North Carolina District Director

Just like the economy, online shopping is booming in America. However, a prospering business can quickly become troubled should a cyber-thief cross your computer system. The U.S. Small Business Administration encourages entrepreneurs and consumers to prevent these virtual thieves by being aware of recent trends and staying alert to warning signs. 

The cost of cyber-crimes reached $2.7 billion in 2018, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) which investigates cyber-attacks by criminals, overseas adversaries and terrorists. The Agency’s IC3 receives about 900 complaints a day. 

In our state of North Carolina, more than 7,500 people were affected by a cyber-crime last year. The result was a loss of $137 million. 

So how does this affect your small business? Well, the most widely reported cyber-crime was non-payment and non-delivery of goods and services. The FBI’s IC3 reported that this style of cyber-crime impacted more than 65,000 Americans at a loss of over $183 million. 

More than ever, cyber-crooks are targeting business and personal emails, tricking users into revealing confidential information. The scam has seen personal and vendor emails compromised, spoofed lawyer email accounts, requests for W-2 information, and the targeting of the real estate sector.

Unfortunately, small businesses can be easy targets for devious cyber offenders because they typically lack the security infrastructure of larger businesses. A recent SBA survey found 88 percent of small business owners felt their business was vulnerable to a cyber-attack. Yet many businesses could not afford professional IT solutions. They report having limited time to devote to cybersecurity or they did not know where to begin.

Recognizing the issues, and with recent international events in mind, there is a strong need to protect our nation and our small businesses. Thus, the SBA now offers a 30-minute self-paced training course for small business owners. The training session defines cybersecurity, explores cybersecurity best practices, and identifies types of cyber threats and types of information that should be secured. The course is located at https://www.sba.gov/course/cybersecurity-small-businesses/

So, the next time you are shopping or selling online, make sure to practice good cyber hygiene on both your personal systems and professional equipment: use updated antivirus software, make sure you are visiting secure shopping sites, avoid clicking pop-up links, and use strong passwords that include letters, numbers and special characters such as @, $ and &. Be safe!

For more information, visit www.sba.gov.

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