The new year is now well underway, but there are many emerging threats that most smaller merchants might not know about. With this in mind, it's vital for owners to research potential risks and carefully assess how prepared their businesses are to deal with them. The good news is that security experts are effective at spotting trends before they become problematic, and a little homework can go a long way toward increasing protections.
One of the biggest threats - which most often targets businesses that protect large amounts of sensitive information, such as health care providers - is ransomware, according to the 2017 Webroot Threat Report. As the name implies, this kind of malware targets and takes over a victim's systems, effectively locking them out of whatever critical programs they may need until a ransom is paid. Just one version of this program, which launched early last year, locked more than 400,000 victims out of their own systems within a week of its debut.
The problem for many smaller merchants in particular is that these ransoms can be significant, often costing tens of thousands of dollars, the report said. Companies typically have no recourse but to pay so they can get access to their systems once again. FBI estimates show that last year alone, ransomware cost victims about $1 billion collectively.
Other Potential Threats
As "bring-your-own-device" trends continue to pick up speed, and workers increasingly connect their phones, tablets or laptops to company systems, additional risk comes into play, according to Kaspersky Security Bulletin. Last year, Kaspersky Lab spotted more than 8.5 million attempts to install malicious programs onto mobile devices, including nearly 129,000 mobile banking Trojan applications, and 261,000 mobile ransomware programs.
With this in mind, it is vital for companies to set BYOD policies and do as much as they can to make sure their employees are keeping their devices safe before connecting to business networks. With just one infected device, the problem can spread quickly and do major, costly damage.
In addition, many companies are now starting to make greater use of connected devices through the Internet of Things, and unfortunately hackers are taking notice, according to Retail Dive. One estimate from Forrester Research showed that as many as 500,000 IoT-enabled devices could be infected with malware in 2017 alone.
"The Internet of Things is going to make things a lot trickier," Robert Horn, associate director at insurance and risk management solutions provider Crystal & Company, told the site. "We're already getting claims from companies that are connecting everything they have to the cloud. We're going to see more of those claims."
With all this in mind, it's crucial for merchants to make sure the data they handle on a daily basis is secure. That should include investing in the latest point-of-sale devices that can handle EMV and mobile payments, to add more protections for consumer card data.