Everybody dreams of becoming their own boss. Managing a business means making your own rules, while using your time as you see fit. Sounds great, but you need to consider the competition from big players, the increasing expectations from digital savvy customers, the pressure of finding new clients while also controlling costs. Plus, there’s always the challenge of adapting to the latest tech advancements!

With all these necessities, information security is often disregarded. This happens because most business owners don’t realize how important their business and ultimately, their data, is.

First of all, there’s nothing small about SMBs. SMBs play a vital role in the economy. They make up nearly 99 percent of US employment firms and account for more than half of the new jobs created in the past decade. A recent study predicts that SMBs will contribute to 40% of worldwide public cloud spending by 2019.

Hackers have long realized the value of SMBs. Yes, spectacular, sophisticated attacks on big companies like Target or Anthem grab the attention of the media, but there are actually more SMBs targeted than larger organizations. In fact, in 2015, small-businesses were prime targets for cyber-thieves.

As we have seen, POS malware campaigns are on the rise, making victims from multiple industries and locations across the globe. Healthcare providers, retailers, hotel chains, dental clinics, machine manufacturers, technology companies, beauty supply shops – everyone is affected by the same credit card stealing threat.

Social engineering emails carrying remote access Trojans (RATs), have been seen infecting US and UK businesses. Financial malware hidden in innocuous Word documents stole millions of online banking credentials.

Ransomware, the virus that locks up files in exchange of a ransom, has also been blackmailing SMBs. And since a modern business relies heavily on its digital assets to satisfy customers and fears public shaming, it becomes particularly vulnerable. As a result, CryptoWall 3.0, one of the most complex versions of this type of malware, made its creators $350 million richer last year.

Why are SMBs preferred targets?

First of all, small businesses underestimate the importance of their data. Every business has confidential, proprietary information, such as employee salaries, revenue numbers or customers’ credit card details. That’s what cyber-criminals value most. Also, small businesses are a piece in a bigger puzzle. If they do business with larger companies, most likely they are being used to get to the ultimate target.

Secondly, SMBs have a high return on investment. Since malware has become so sophisticated to leave no traces behind after it captures the data it needs, and with the possibility to buy malware online anonymously, the results overweigh the risks.

Lastly, small businesses are easier prays than larger enterprises. The bigger the business, the more IT experts and security systems it will have in place to fend off cyber-threats.

Unfortunately, entrepreneurs not only put security on the back seat of their business priorities, but also underestimate the impact a leak of proprietary information may have on their reputation, credibility and ultimately profits.

But the truth is…a security breach can devastate a small or midsize business.

One unlucky click – a malicious email attachment, a link to a legitimate but compromised website – can result in a costly data breach that drains bank accounts and customer trust. A 2012 study by the National Cyber Security Alliance found that 60 percent of small firms go out of business within six months of a data breach.

If you’re an entrepreneur, these facts probably put things into perspective. But there’s not need to panic, there are solutions. The first thing you can do to prevent cyber-threats is invest in a dedicated endpoint security solution that suits your exact needs.

Also, remember, it’s extremely important that you begin educating employees on the risks of careless online behavior, weak passwords, phishing schemes and other threats that may fool them into giving access to your network and assets.

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