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How cybersecurity readiness prevents small and medium businesses (SMBs) from fuelling supply chain attacks

Supply chain attacks aren’t new. If the past couple of years have taught businesses anything, it’s that the impact of supply chain cyber attacks is now, universal, from the fallout of the SolarWinds software breach, to the exposed Apache Log4j vulnerability and Kaseya last year. Unfortunately when such supply chain attacks hit smaller businesses who are usually the suppliers to larger enterprises, their impact is especially prohibitive.

For SMBs already feeling the prolonged impact of the pandemic, the added pressure of dealing with sophisticated and frequent cyber attacks in real time, are a heavy burden, as they try to protect their business against financial, legal and reputational damage, as well as their own suppliers and larger clients’ security. It is now more important than ever for SMBs to implement strict security hygiene and effective cybersecurity processes to ensure their business is prepared for the event of cyber attacks happening.

SMBs as an indirect avenue of cyber attacks

The ‘new normal’ opened the door to several new vulnerabilities; cyber attacks globally increased by 50% on average in 2021, compared to 2020. Our Check Point Threat Intelligence report revealed that an organisation in United Arab Emirates is being attacked on average 906 times per week in the last six months.

While security breaches are on the rise, the top threats impacting SMBs have remained the same. In Check Point’s Small and Medium Business Security Report from 2020/2021, we revealed phishing, malware, credential theft and ransomware to be the top four threats impacting these businesses. So, what does this mean for them?

The reality is threat actors have taken advantage not only of the now-entrenched remote working model to target organisations, but also the usual limits preventing SMBs from bulking up on their cyber security defences, mainly lack of budget and expertise. SMBs often do not have a dedicated IT or security department, meaning with no in-house security expertise and reduced focus on security patching, these companies are easier to socially engineer and infiltrate. Adding to this, SMBs usually have employees doing multiple roles, and thus a wider access to valuable areas of the business and information is given to them, and so if breached, they pose a  threat to multiple areas within the business. In addition, the business IT infrastructure is often shared for personal use communication as well eg. social media, personal emails allowing easier access to hackers, as the data is often not secured.

Threat actors often target SMBs as low hanging fruit for their vital role in supply chains. This is especially so as such attacks wreak havoc on not only one organisation but entire businesses within the supply networks. By leveraging tactics such as phishing, cybercriminals gain access to an organisation to launch a malware attack, steal data and credentials or instigate a ransomware.

Take for example, the attack against Target USA where hackers used stolen credentials from an SMB vendor that serviced the HVAC systems in Target stores, to gain access to the retailer’s network and then laterally move to the systems that kept customer payment information. As a result, the global retailer was breached and 40 million credit and debit cards details stolen.

The key factor to preventing cyberattacks is threat prevention. With minimal time and lack of cyber expertise or manpower, SMBs must adopt a prevention mindset to minimise potential cyber attacks and threats.

Why cybersecurity readiness is paramount for SMBs

Beyond the immediate financial impact and reputational blow as a trustworthy, reliable partner, SMBs can also face legal or regulatory repercussions, operational disruption, flow-on costs for system remediation and cyberattack response, customer churn, and the loss of competitive advantage that can make or break a smaller business. In fact, a tarnished reputation as an avenue of attack can be even more detrimental to an SMB organisation, as the loss of trust with a larger organisation could mean a loss of potential business and revenue down the line with them or other new, potential customers. 

With this in mind, budgetary constraints to keep computers and corporate networks protected should never be an excuse, as keeping sensitive data and information protected will bring many advantages and benefits to companies. This can range from overall cost savings, compliance with data protection laws, gaining the trust of customers and suppliers, to protecting your documents and information to the maximum by preventing any type of data breach.

How SMBs can prevent supply chain attacks

By applying stronger cyber defences, SMBs are in a position to provide larger organisations with assurance that larger companies they supply to will not be compromised via the SMB partner or third-party vendor.

Whilst there are multiple means to prevent such supply chain attacks, the first step is to have good software capable of covering the entire company, protecting the company’s endpoints and devices, supported by regular backups so that, in the event of a cyberattack, they have the possibility of restoring all the data.

Any device that connects to the network can become a security breach, so it is important to secure all endpoints. It is especially critical for remote or hybrid workforces to avoid security breaches and data compromise. Also, all employees should be trained in cybersecurity so that they themselves become the first barrier to any attempted attack, such as phishing via email or SMS. Keep in mind that prevention is one of the best protection measures available.

A viable option for SMBs is to also consider engaging an experienced Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP), who will have the skilled resources, updated security software and experienced expertise to monitor for and analyse threats on behalf of the SMB player. This is especially useful for SMBs who have neither the time nor resources to adequately enforce threat detection and response.  

Partnering with a cybersecurity expert equipped with best-in-class security and scalable solution such as Check Point Software can put SMBs in good stead to protect against the most sophisticated attacks and generate trust among larger potential players.

Ultimately, SMBs seek a simple plug-and-play solution with best-in-class threat protection, given their lack of financial funding and skills. With an effective cybersecurity strategy, SMBs are better placed to demonstrate their credibility as secure partners to larger organisations, opening up more business opportunities.

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