45 Percent of Small Business Owners Have Fallen Victim to Cyber Attack Without Knowing It

Lack of Cybercrime Awareness to Blame: 45% of Small Business Owners Have Fallen Victim to Cyber Attack But They Didn't Know It Happened

Think your small business is unlikely to fall victim to a cyber attack? New data from Nationwide suggests that mindset could be a mistake.

Lack of Cybercrime Awareness to Blame

In fact, 45 percent of business owners have been victims of cyber attacks that they didn’t actually know were attacks, according to the Nationwide survey, which featured responses from more than 1,000 business owners. More specifically, just 13 percent of business owners in the study said they knew they had fallen victim to cyber attacks. But when business owners were given a list of different types of cyber attacks to choose from, that number jumped up to 58 percent.

What this suggests is that cyber attacks are much more prevalent than a lot of business owners think. You might assume that something like unpatched software or a phishing email isn’t a big deal. But it could lead to major consequences for your business.

Additionally, 76 percent of the business owners surveyed said they think cyber attacks are unlikely to affect their businesses. And 41 percent think that cyber attacks impact large businesses more often than small businesses. But data suggests that small businesses are almost as likely as their larger counterparts to fall victim to those issues.

“Nationwide’s annual survey reminds owners to focus on managing what they can control,” said Mark Berven, president and chief operating officer of Nationwide Property and Casualty. “The world is only getting more complicated, and the elements outside our control that have the potential to inflict great harm on businesses are increasing. An owner can’t control if a hacker will target their business in a cyberattack, nor can they control the weather, for example. What an owner can do is prepare — and that’s where we and our agent force can help. There is no time like the present to create a plan to prepare and protect your business for the future, and whether you’re a Nationwide customer or not, our Business Solutions Center serves as a great resource and starting point.”

There are things your business can do to try to prevent those attacks, or at least minimize the impact. One of the best things you can do is hire cybersecurity experts to focus solely on this area. However, just 37 percent of the businesses surveyed said they currently have at least one such employee. That same percentage of business owners also said they have a succession plan in place for their business, suggesting that both of those strategies are under-utilized by businesses.

“The key takeaway from our annual survey of business owners is that it’s critical they continue to prepare for growing threats against their businesses,” added Berven. “This is important not only for the viability of their businesses, but the overall health of the economy. Our survey uncovered alarming discrepancies in how business owners think versus how they behave. For cybersecurity best practices specifically, there exists a 33 percent gap in awareness versus action; a vast majority of business owners (83 percent) believe it’s important to establish security practices and policies, yet only 50 percent say they have established security practices to protect sensitive information.”

There’s no way to completely guarantee that your business won’t ever fall victim to a cyber attack. But simply assuming that it will never happen isn’t the answer. More than half of businesses have had to deal with some type of cybersecurity issue already. And those attacks are becoming increasingly prevalent among businesses of all sizes.

So explore the different options for preventing or minimizing the risk, depending on your business’s specific needs and resources. And remain aware of the risks and trends involved in the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape.

Image: Nationwide

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Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

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  1. Small business owners have so much on their plates just running the business