The FBI Warns Small Businesses against a Wave of Cyber Crime

At this week’s CNBC Small Business Playbook event, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Michael Sohn warned against a wave of cyber crime targeting small and medium-sized businesses.

In 2021, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received 847,376 complaints regarding cyberattacks and malicious cyber activity with nearly $7 billion in losses, the majority of which targeted small businesses.

According to Special Agent Sohn, the majority of those victims were small businesses. “The large businesses continue to invest in their cybersecurity and enhance their cybersecurity posture, so what the cybercriminals are doing is they’re pivoting, they’re evolving and targeting the soft targets, which are the small and medium businesses.”

Sohn said his key message for small and medium-sized business owners was to stay vigilant.

“A lot of the cyberattacks that we have witnessed from our investigations, almost all of them could have been prevented by doing very basic cyber hygiene,” he said.

Here are some of the pointers from Sohn for small and medium-sized business owners to make sure their basic cybersecurity practices are up to date.

Start with the obvious cybersecurity steps

Sohn said that basic cyber hygiene should be like “wearing a seatbelt” for small business owners, and most of these efforts can be done “today and implemented with very minimal cost.”

That includes basic password good practices like using multi-factor or two-party authentication, and not using the same password across multiple logins or accounts.

“That sounds very simple, and a lot of people will disregard that as, ‘Why does it matter if I use the same password?’” Sohn said. “What we see across the board is if they use a password for your email and that is compromised, they might take that exact username and password and try to compromise your payroll and other financial institution accounts.”

Sohn acknowledged that basic password management isn’t a “silver bullet,” but said it should be “one of many layers including using a good reputable password manager.”

Rely on reputable services

Going beyond a password manager, Sohn said small business owners must ensure they’re relying on a good technology-based backbone.

“The best thing to do is to use reputable services, reputable laptops, hardware, email, and other services that have been tested and that have been in the industry for a while,” he said.

He also noted that small business owners should make sure that they are updating their devices and other technology with the latest patches to ensure that their systems are as protected as possible.

“These updates to your systems are actually patching holes and vulnerabilities in your corporate networks, or your business desktops, laptops, or tablets,” Sohn said. “This is one of the critical steps that we ask our users to do, and then using a reputable anti-virus and a firewall system on your network.”

 

You can read CNBC’s whole article here.

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