How Owners Can Protect Their Small Businesses from Hackers

Cyber-attacks can take a big toll on small businesses. In this Money Matters Report, Spectrum News’ Tara Lynn Wagner finds out how one local entrepreneur protects himself after his business was targeted.

Mohammed Osman is the owner of Karima Shipping Enterprises which ships items big and small all over the world with 15 employees and a bulk of his clients in Ghana.

Email is his main form of communication. Therefore, when customers began calling to say people were demanding money from them, he knew he had been hacked. 

"’Are you expecting something from Karima Shipping?’ And they say yes. They say, ‘OK we have it, you’re supposed to pay this amount.’ So when they take that amount, that is it. You don't hear from them again,” Osman says.

"The headlines are a little bit misleading,” says Neil Lipuma, practice leader for professional risk at Hiscox. “It seems like it's a problem for really large companies but it's really, it's just as much an issue for the smaller businesses as well."

Hiscox recently compiled a Cyber Readiness Report and found that at least 60 percent of small companies in the US experienced at least one cyber-attack in the past year.

"We found that 30 percent of these undresses did nothing following a cyber-attack.  So there's really complacency involved there,” Lipuma says.

There are ways to increase cyber security without breaking the bank. One is to make it a priority at your business from top to bottom. That means training all your employees.

"Is there an awareness of cyber? Is the human firewall where it should be?  Really understanding the behavior of employees, whether or not they are going to click on a particularly precarious email,” Lipuma says.

Osman took a course through the Small Business Administration, then traveled to Africa to personally retrain his staff. He changes all the email passwords regularly and set up alerts on his accounts.

"Google will send you an email that someone is trying to log into your account from this location,” Osman says.

He gets those alerts periodically from Ghana, meaning the hackers are still trying.  All told, he lost about $3,000 having to reimburse his clients but he knows it could have been much worse.

"If they are able to hack into your system, your accounting, your banking, you know they can do a lot to you,” Osman says.

"Worst case scenario - and we've seen it - business are put out of business,” Lipuma says. “They are not able to rebound from the loss associated and the cost associated with these cyber-attacks and unfortunately yeah, they are forced out of business." 

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