October 2018 is Cyber Security Awareness Month, an annual campaign which aims to raise awareness of cyber-security threats. Research from the Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2018 shows that four in ten businesses (43 per cent) and two in ten charities (19 per cent) have experienced a cyber-security breach or attack in the last 12 months. With these figures in mind, it’s hugely important for small and medium businesses to consider a plan to prevent cyber-attacks which could affect their websites, reputation and profits.
Many small business owners don’t have adequate security measures on their website because they assume that it’s just larger organisations which are targeted by hackers. However, research from security firm Sitelock suggests that small businesses are the most likely to have their websites hacked. This is because SMEs typically have inadequate website security measures and less regular site maintenance, making them a primary target for hackers using automated tools to find vulnerable websites.
Laura Dodge, Marketing Manager at web development agency Pedalo, says: “Websites need regular maintenance to stay up-to-date, secure and working correctly. The problem is that many website owners don’t realise that website maintenance is needed. Making sure that your website is well-maintained not only helps you to reach and retain your audience, but also ensures your website is protected against cyber-attacks. Without adequate security and ongoing site maintenance, vulnerabilities in your site can be exploited, enabling hackers to access data, send spam and make code changes, with potentially severe consequences.”
Put simply, if your company is present on the internet, the threat of cyber-attacks is there, regardless of the size of your enterprise.
What is cyber-security?
As a small or medium business owner, you may be wondering whether your website really needs extra cyber-security systems in place, or maybe you’re unsure what cyber-security entails. Cyber-security is the umbrella term for a series of technologies and processes used to make sure that your systems and data are secure.
Cyber-security helps to protect your companies’ assets and integrity against all threats. With cyber-attacks becoming increasingly more advanced every day, it’s important that a good cyber-security system is in place on your website and that this is consistently maintained to ensure it’s up to date.
It’s important to have a secure system in place not only to protect your website, but also to ensure that you’re giving potential customers the best impression of your business. There are many precautions which can be taken as part of general website maintenance to ensure websites are running correctly and are strengthened against data breaches.
Where do cyber-attacks come from?
Cyber-attacks can happen for a number of reasons, including insecure user access to a website, lack of security monitoring, or not having appropriate maintenance procedures in place.
Most cyber-attacks are automated, which means that they don’t discriminate based on the size of a company. Instead, attacks are made by bots, and targeted based on known vulnerabilities. This means that if your website is not secure, it’s only a matter of time before it could be breached.
Recent research from the Department For Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has shown that less than three in ten businesses (27 per cent, versus 33 per cent in the previous 2017 survey) have a formal cyber-security policy in place. Without adequate maintenance and security protection, websites are vulnerable to cyber-attacks and hacking. As well as this, poorly maintained sites typically experience decreased user trust and therefore reduced site traffic, resulting in lower impact and income.
How can a cyber-attack affect your website?
Automated bots are constantly searching the internet for websites with security weaknesses. If a site is hacked or infected, customer data and payment information could be at risk and sites could be completely rewritten.
For small business owners, it’s especially important to consider the implications of a cyber-attack on your website. Data theft, extortion and vandalism which could tarnish your reputation are just a few things to consider.
Not only can cyber-attacks compromise the security of small businesses’ websites and data, but they can also be costly. Cyber-attacks can cost up to £22,300 for large businesses and around £2,310 for smaller businesses, which can have significant financial implications.
These figures are just one reason why it’s important to undertake regular website maintenance and consider putting extra site security measures in place.
What are the benefits of improving cyber-security?
With small businesses relying heavily on website traffic to reach new customers and get sales, just one security breach could have hugely negative effects on your business and result in a lack of customer trust.
Increasing website maintenance and improving site security helps you gain confidence from customers and site visitors. It also stops your website from going down at crucial times, protects customer data, and helps ensure that employees are working safely and securely.
For business owners, proactivity is key when it comes to staying on top of cyber-security. By regularly making security improvements and keeping websites optimised through continuous maintenance, SMEs can save money and protect their websites from harmful viruses, hacking and cyber-attacks.
Evidence from Google also shows that websites with old and outdated content or slow page speeds are penalised by search engines and rank lower. Therefore, website maintenance to boost cyber-security has the additional benefits of improving search engine rankings and increasing website traffic.
How to get started with website security
When it comes to ensuring that your website is protected, the best place to start is with small maintenance checks which strengthen your site. If websites aren’t being consistently patched and updated, they’re more susceptible to security threats.
There are many small checks that website owners can complete to ensure that their websites are secure against threats from potential hackers. These include updating site software, patching vulnerabilities, and making regular website back-ups. A free guide to website maintenance – both to improve site performance and increase security – can be downloaded on the Pedalo website.
Investing time in ongoing website maintenance is a key way to ensure that your small business website is as protected as it can be against cyber-security threats.
Pedalo (opens in new tab), Web Development
Image Credit: Pavel Ignatov / Shutterstock