Biggest Cybersecurity Mistakes Made By Small to Mid-sized Businesses

Biggest cyber security mistakes for SMBs

The Ultimate Guide




Every time you turn around in the news, you hear about some major company or Brand getting hacked or breached, including Uber, Volkswagen, Amazon, Toyota, Facebook, American Airlines, and North face.

And this list is just a partial list; they all happened this year!

Crazy, isn’t it?

So, what is the problem with these breaches hitting the national news?

The problem is these are all national or international companies, making you, a small to mid-sized organization, believe that only large corporations are a target.

This is the furthest from the truth.

To make it worse, cybercriminals know this, making smaller organizations their favorite target.

Cybersecurity must be top of mind for every business, but especially for small to medium businesses (SMBs).

But unfortunately, most small to midsized organizations make many of the common mistakes we see regarding cybersecurity.

Leaving them vulnerable to an attack and a breach.

This article will discuss some of the biggest cybersecurity mistakes SMBs make and what you can do to avoid them.


Small to mid-sized organizations must take cybersecurity seriously!

The most common cybersecurity mistake SMBs make is not taking security seriously enough. Cybersecurity threats are real, and they’re only becoming more prevalent.

Because your business is small doesn’t mean you’re immune to a cyber-attack. In fact, SMBs are often targeted by cyber-criminals because they tend to have weaker security than larger businesses.


SMBs assume they are under the radar and not at risk of a cyber-attack

We will say it again. Cybersecurity must be a priority for any business, regardless of size. Unfortunately, many small and medium companies continue to believe they are not a real target.

This is just not the case.

SMBs are actually more likely to be targeted by cybercriminals because they often have weaker security defenses and are less prepared to deal with an attack.


Hackers know that small businesses are under-protected

Hackers know small businesses are unprotected

Cybercriminals are well aware of this fact and are constantly looking for vulnerabilities they can exploit. If your SMB is not taking steps to improve its cybersecurity, it could be putting itself at risk of a costly and damaging attack.


But, “my organization does not store sensitive data”

Many SMBs do not think they need to worry about cybersecurity because they don’t store sensitive information. However, you can still be a target even if you don’t store sensitive data.

Attackers may try to use your systems to launch attacks on other businesses or access sensitive data stored elsewhere.


Cybersecurity is often seen as an IT problem

Cybersecurity is not just an IT problem. It’s a business problem. Therefore, it needs to be viewed as a risk management issue and should be equally important to other business risks.

Cybersecurity affects all aspects of the business, from how data is stored and accessed to how employees work and communicate with each other. Treating cybersecurity as a business issue, companies can start making the necessary changes to protect themselves from cyber threats.

Cyber incidents can majorly impact businesses, both financially and reputationally. However, by taking cybersecurity seriously, companies can protect themselves from these threats and avoid the potentially devastating consequences.



SMBs typically do not have a comprehensive Cybersecurity Plan

One of the critical mistakes that SMBs make is not having a comprehensive Cybersecurity Plan in place. Cyberattacks can happen anytime, so it’s important to be prepared. Without a plan, your SMB will likely be caught off guard if an attack does occur.

A Cybersecurity Plan will help an organization identify and mitigate potential threats and can be the difference between surviving a cyber attack and going out of business.


Lack of investment in cybersecurity

Another common mistake SMBs make is not investing enough in cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is an ongoing process, and it requires regular updates and improvements. Many SMBs think they can get by with a basic firewall and antivirus software, but this is not the case.

Cybercriminals are constantly finding new ways to exploit weaknesses in systems, which is why investing in the latest security tools and technologies is important.


Cybersecurity is an investment, not a cost!

Cyber Security investmentIt is not something that can be put off indefinitely. Investing in the right tools and resources is essential to protecting your business from cyberattacks. Cybersecurity should be seen as an investment, not a cost.


SMBs need to create comprehensive Cybersecurity budgets

Most businesses do not develop a comprehensive budget for cybersecurity.  SMBs have difficulty justifying cybersecurity costs and the need for cybersecurity protocols when “there are no incidents.”  When there are no incidents, the cybersecurity platform and processes work perfectly and protect against much more costly situations.


Relying on security tools alone

Security tools are important, but they are not enough on their own. Cybersecurity is a holistic endeavor and requires buy-in from everyone in the organization, from the C-suite on down.

A small business security strategy is much more than just security software. An organization’s cybersecurity posture starts in with the Leadership Team. Security policies and processes require a proactive approach and commitment from all employees.


SMBs need to plan for the worst

Cyberattacks can have a major impact on businesses, both in terms of reputation and revenue. Yet many SMBs don’t have a comprehensive incident response plan in place. As a result, they are often ill-prepared to deal with the aftermath of an attack.

Business leaders assume adding a few modern protections to decades-old security technologies is good enough. But unfortunately, adding Security Awareness Training and DNS Filtering on top of Antivirus, Firewalls, and VPNs does not fully protect a business.


Understand that your employees are the weakest link

employees are the weakest cybersecurity link

Employee error is often cited as the leading cause of data breaches. However, it’s important to remember that employees are also your first line of defense against cyber threats. You can help reduce the risk of human error by providing them with proper training and awareness.

Cyberattacks are often successful because employees click on malicious links or open attachments from unknown senders. While it’s impossible to completely eliminate the risk of human error, you can teach employees how to spot red flags and identify phishing attempts, thus reducing the likelihood of a successful cyberattack.


SMBs do not have proper security protocols for Remote Workers

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, more and more businesses are transitioning to remote work models. This shift has brought about a whole new set of challenges regarding cybersecurity. Many SMBs do not have proper security protocols for remote workers, which can leave them vulnerable to attack.

There are a few key things to keep in mind when it comes to securing remote workers:

  • Use a VPN: A virtual private network (VPN) is a great way to encrypt data and protect against potential cyber threats. So make sure your employees are using a VPN when working remotely.
  • Teach remote employees about cyber threats they might encounter when out of the office: Cybersecurity starts with awareness. Employees should be aware of the most common cyber threats and how to avoid them.
  • Implement security protocols: In addition to using a VPN, businesses should implement other security protocols such as multi-factor authentication and strong password policies.

By taking these steps, businesses can help reduce the risk of cyberattacks and keep their remote workers safe.


Failing to train employees on cybersecurity

Another mistake SMBs make is failing to execute Cybersecurity training with their employees. Users and organizations must do their part to educate themselves on Cybersecurity fundamentals. Security mistakes can be greatly reduced or eliminated through consistent security training.

An organization’s Cybersecurity training program should not be a one-time event. Instead, it should be an ongoing process that is revisited regularly. In addition, cybersecurity training should cover a variety of topics: like phishing (hacking through email), vishing (hacking through voice/phone calls), and smishing (hacking through text messages).

By providing employees with consistent Cybersecurity training, you can help reduce the risk of human error and prevent successful cyberattacks.


Phishing Training

Phishing training

Phishing Training is one of the most beneficial tools since it appears to be the primary attack vector for threat actors today. Cybercriminals are using email for phishing attacks to gain access to sensitive data, and if employees are not trained on how to spot these emails, they could easily fall victim to an attack.

Security training should be given to all employees, regardless of their role within the company. Cybersecurity is everyone’s responsibility, and everyone needs to be aware of the threat of a phishing attack. When proper measures are taken to avoid malicious attacks, digital assets and data remain safe and secure.


Not having a Cyber Incident Response Plan

In the event of a Cyberattack, businesses need to have a plan in place to quickly and effectively respond to the incident.

Cyber incidents can happen anytime, and businesses need to be prepared. With a Cyber Incident Response Plan, companies can quickly and effectively respond to an attack, containing the damage and recovering from the event.

A Cyber Incident Response Plan should include steps for identifying the incident, containing the damage, eradicating the threat, and recovering from the attack. By taking these steps, businesses can minimize the impact of a Cyberattack and protect their data.


SMBs often ignore mobile as a mode for cyber attacks

Cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to exploit vulnerabilities, and mobile devices are no exception. Mobile devices are now a featured target for attacks, as they offer a wealth of personal and corporate data that can be used for nefarious purposes.

As such, small businesses need to invest in mobile security solutions to protect them from growing mobile threats.


Failing to update software and systems

Cybersecurity is a moving target, which means that businesses need to continuously update their software and systems to stay ahead of the latest threats.

One of the biggest mistakes SMBs make regarding cybersecurity is failing to update their software and systems regularly.

Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving, and Cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to exploit vulnerabilities, so it’s critical for businesses to keep their systems updated to protect themselves.


Timely and tested patching is imperative for SMBs

Patching is one of the most important aspects of cybersecurity for small and medium businesses (SMBs). By ensuring that applications and systems are up-to-date with the latest security patches, SMBs can reduce their attack surface and improve their overall security posture.

However, monitoring for new patches and testing them before implementing them in production systems is important. This will help ensure critical systems are not disrupted by new patch deployments.

Ensure your LOB applications and systems are up to date and get the latest security updates. Monitor these updates to ensure they are being completed.


Data Backup is not “air-gapped” or tested

data backup

Data is the lifeblood of any business, so it must be properly backed up. Unfortunately, many SMBs don’t have a robust data backup plan, leaving them at risk of losing critical data in the event of a cyberattack.

Cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated, and their attacks are becoming more destructive. An “air-gapped” backup system will protect the data after a cyber-criminal breach the system. The air gap requires separate authentication and keeps the data safe if a hacker successfully breaches the network.

As such, businesses need to have a robust data backup plan to help them quickly recover from an attack.



SMBs must Encrypt their Data

Data encryption is one of the most effective ways to protect data from being compromised in a cyberattack. However, many businesses fail to encrypt their data, leaving it vulnerable to theft.

Cybersecurity is a complex issue, and there is no silver bullet solution that will protect businesses from all threats. However, encrypting the hard drives of all company devices greatly improves their cybersecurity posture, and businesses can make themselves much less likely to experience data loss.

By encrypting data, businesses can make it much more difficult for cybercriminals to access and use their data for nefarious purposes.


SMBs do not enforce Two-Factor Authentication (2FA)

Two Factor Authentication (2FA)

Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an important security measure businesses should take to protect their data. Unfortunately, cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to exploit vulnerabilities, and often they will target weak passwords to gain access to business systems.

By implementing multi-factor authentication, businesses can make it much more difficult for Cybercriminals to access their systems. 2FA requires users to have two different factors to log in: a password and a fingerprint or a code sent to a mobile device.

This makes it much harder for Cybercriminals to gain access to business systems, as they would need both the password and the other method to authenticate.

While multi-factor authentication may seem inconvenient, it is a very effective way to protect business data from Cybercriminals. Businesses that do not implement two-factor authentication are at a much higher risk of being compromised in a Cyberattack.


SMBs must partner with a Cybersecurity Provider

Many small businesses believe they can’t afford to partner with cybersecurity providers or managed service providers. However, the reality is that partnering with the security team at one of the managed service providers can actually save the business money in the long run by helping them to avoid costly data breaches.

Cybersecurity providers can help businesses identify and fix vulnerabilities, train employees on best practices, and implement security solutions that protect them from the latest threats.

Small businesses that partner with a cybersecurity provider are better equipped to defend themselves against attacks and minimize the impact of a breach should one occur.


Cybersecurity is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing journey

Cybersecurity is more important now than ever, with the number of Cyberattacks that have been taking place. Security should not be taken lightly, and SMBs must do everything they can to protect themselves.

Many medium-sized businesses mistake thinking cybersecurity is a one-time security incident. Instead, cybersecurity is an ongoing journey that requires constant vigilance.

Cyberattacks are becoming increasingly common, and they’re only going to get worse. SMBs need to be prepared for this by having a strong Cybersecurity strategy, not just today, but thinking weeks and months in advance.


Cybersecurity cannot be a “bolt-on” to existing business processes

SMBs must stop treating it as a bolt-on to business processes rather than a separate and important aspect of the business. Cybersecurity needs to be viewed as a fundamental part of doing business in the 21st century.

It should be given the same importance as other aspects of the business, such as accounting or marketing. SMBs need to realize that they must commit to cybersecurity if they want to protect their and their customer’s data.


Cybersecurity is frequently an afterthought

Cybersecurity should not be an afterthought, but rather, it should be built into the foundation of the business. New threats are emerging daily, and companies need to be prepared to deal with them in every aspect of their business.

Cybersecurity is something that businesses need to commit to on an ongoing basis. This means dealing with new threats and being prepared to update your business plans and processes as new information becomes available.


SMBs do not consider cybersecurity at the beginning of new developments within a business

New tech deployments, R&D, and Process-Changes should start with Cyber Security.  When decisions are made, and the ball is already rolling, it is very hard to pause or even scrap plans for security concerns. Cybersecurity should not be an afterthought; rather, it should be built into the foundation of business operations and processes from the beginning.

When new technology is being deployed or process changes are being made, businesses need to consider the cybersecurity implications of these changes. Cybersecurity planning can help companies to avoid potential problems down the road and ensure that their data is safe and secure.


SMBs have no NIST “Detect” mechanisms in place

As Cyber Security threats have increased, the US Federal Government has released best practices through the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework (NIST). The Cybersecurity Framework provides guidance for businesses to reduce their Cyber risk.

One of the key aspects of the Cybersecurity Framework is detection. Unfortunately, many small businesses do not have any detection mechanisms in place. This leaves them vulnerable to attack, as they may not know that an attack is happening until it’s too late.

There are many different types of detection mechanisms that businesses can put in place, such as intrusion detection systems, security information and event management systems, and more. With these systems in place, companies can be alerted to potential Cyber threats and take action to mitigate them.


Compliance with industry regulations, government regulations, or cyber insurance requirements is not enough.

This is a common mistake that small and medium businesses (SMBs) make regarding cybersecurity. Just because you are compliant with industry or government regulations, or have cyber insurance, does not mean your business is safe from attacks.

Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving landscape, and what may have been sufficient last year may not be enough this year. This is why keeping up with the latest trends and best practices in cybersecurity is so important.


Cyber Insurance is critical for Small Businesses, but it is not a plan!

Cyber insurance can help cover the costs of an incident, but it won’t prevent one from happening in the first place. Government or Industry regulations form an initial checklist for a cybersecurity posture, but they are not intended to be a complete and final cybersecurity plan. Cyber insurance is crucial in helping small businesses recover financially from an incident.

Cyber insurance should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure it is keeping up with the latest trends and best practices.


SMBs do not limit access to only those who need it

One of the most common mistakes that businesses make is not limiting access to only those who need it. When data is accessible to too many people, it increases the risk of theft or loss.

Businesses must carefully consider who needs access to what data and then put controls in place to limit access accordingly. This may include things like user permissions, data encryption, and more.


SMBs do not execute secure Password Hygiene

Password cyber security

Get set up with a good and reputable Password Manager. Once this is done, reset all your passwords to be unique and randomly generated passwords consisting of 14+ characters (including numbers, capitols, and symbols).

There are several good and reputable password managers on the market, so research and find one that best suits your needs. Once you have a password manager in place, reset all your passwords to be unique and randomly generated.

A strong password should be at least 14 characters long and include a mix of numbers, capital letters, and symbols. By taking these steps, you’ll be well on your way to better cybersecurity for your small business.

Another key part of password hygiene is to never reuse passwords. If you’re using the same password for multiple accounts, once that password is compromised, all of your accounts are now vulnerable. By using unique passwords for each account, you can limit the damage if one of your passwords is ever discovered by hackers.


SMB Employees do not check their Online Presence

Experts call this – OSINT or Open Source Intelligence. Employees should “Google” and try to see where you might be online.

Remove any accounts that you do not actively use. There are also sites like have I Been Pwned and LeakPeek – Home that can tell you if your password, email, or username has been compromised.

Cybersecurity for SMBs can be improved by taking these extra steps to protect yourself online. In addition, by being aware of what information is available about you, you can help reduce the chances of becoming a victim of cybercrime.



Cybersecurity is a critical issue for small and medium businesses (SMBs). However, just because you are compliant with industry or government regulations, or have cyber insurance, does not mean your business is safe from cyber-attacks.

Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving landscape, and what may have been sufficient last year may not be enough this year. This is why keeping up with the latest trends and best practices in cybersecurity is so important.

Cybersecurity is a critical issue for all businesses, but especially for SMBs. You can help protect your business from cyber attacks by taking steps to improve your cybersecurity posture.


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