Businesses suffer from a false sense of security, study shows

Security vendor McAfee says that small and midsize businesses are suffering from a false sense of security, basing their claims on a recent study conducted with Office Depot. Those who took part in the study showed a high degree of confidence that their data and devices were safe from attackers, despite industry research and evidence that proves otherwise.

McAfee's claims come from the 1000 SMBs participated in the Office Depot Small Business Index in September. According to the data, 66 percent of the SMB owners who took part were confident that their data and devices were secure and safe from criminal hackers, with 77 percent reporting that their organizations have never been attacked.

According to the 2013 Verizon Business Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), 40 percent of the incidents examined involved businesses with fewer than 1000 employees, and a majority of them were in the retail or food service industry.

When asked for details, 80 percent of the respondents to Office Depot's survey admitted to not using data protection. Only about half of them confirmed that they're using email and Internet security measures. And almost all of them—91 percent—said they don't use endpoint or mobile device security. Yet, the frightening admission comes from the 14 percent of SMB owners who said they haven't implemented security measures of any kind in their environment.

"A business that doesn't have any security measures in place is putting their data and customers' trust in jeopardy. As enterprises have increased their security defenses, hackers have started to target their attacks downstream to SMBs," said Bill Rielly, senior vice president of SMB at McAfee.

Your solutions may vary

As incident research gets stronger, organizations are waking up to the fact that single sets of best practices cannot be applied to businesses of all sizes, across industries of all types. Criminals have long targeted the low-hanging fruit, and over the last few years, SMBs have filled that role. But while having no security at all is a step backward, unless the solution is geared towards the organization's goals and needs, designing and implementing a defensive posture can become a costly, daunting task. In fact, Verizon makes note of this in their most recent DBIR.

"Any attempt to enforce a one-size-fits-all approach to securing our assets may result in leaving some organizations under-protected from targeted attacks while others potentially over-spend on defending against simpler opportunistic attacks," the report explains.

As an example, the report notes that businesses in the retail and food service sectors should focus on the basics as attackers routinely target poorly configured remote administration services and POS systems, but the basics are not enough for the finance and insurance sectors that have to contend with physical attacks as well as those aimed at critical Web applications and services.

Organizations in the engineering, manufacturing, IT services, and consulting sectors also have a different set of issues to deal with, because they face an entirely different set of attacks aimed at exploiting human weaknesses (social engineering).

"Cyber attacks on small businesses rarely make headlines, so it is easy for these business owners to be lulled into a false sense of security, as indicated in this survey. It is especially important for small business owners to secure their systems, as they may not have the resources to survive a cyber attack, unlike a large corporation," Congressman Chris Collins (R-New York), said in a statement.

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