5 reasons why small businesses need routine vulnerability assessments

5 reasons why small businesses need routine vulnerability assessments

Vulnerability assessment (VA) is the process of testing computers and networks to identify and rank their weaknesses. It should be incorporated into any company’s cyber security and business continuity plans, but some small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) aren’t too keen on implementing them, largely because they are perceived to be complicated and expensive.

There are plenty of reasons why you need to take a proactive approach to securing your business, even if you do lack the in-house resources. Let’s take a look at five of the most compelling.

Reason #1: Basic network security measures are not enough
Antivirus software, Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), and firewalls should be deployed on different levels within a business security plan, but these tools do not provide adequate protection by themselves.

Antivirus protection is an essential part of computer security, but it’s generally effective only against known threats. Similarly, firewalls provide protection against malicious data based on suspicious domain names, and IDS protect against suspicious network activities that are also based on known attacks. But the increasing sophistication and growing variety of malware attacks make these protections inadequate.

Performing a VA helps significantly by examining your network and identifying weak points that can be exploited by the latest attacks that basic protections are unable to detect.

Reason #2: Small businesses are prime targets for attacks
Hackers want the highest possible return on their exploits, so they carry out cyber crime operations that target both small and large enterprises. Targeted attacks -- ones that are aimed at specific targets -- receive plenty of media coverage when they happen to large, brand name organizations, as in the case of the Ashley Madison and Target attacks, but that doesn’t mean small companies are spared.

Targeted attacks may also come from internal sources, such as vengeful current or former employees or third-party vendors. Cyber crime operations are widely distributed, and without proactive security developed from the results of a professional VA, a small business sets itself as a target because intrusions are largely a result of exploitable vulnerabilities.

Reason #3: Vulnerability assessment identifies overlooked weaknesses
Cyber criminals exploit vulnerabilities caused by weak passwords, poor patch management, configuration errors, lack of security policies, and other factors. Your in-house IT staff may be able to apply patches on time, but the exponential growth of vulnerabilities may overwhelm them and make them miss thousands of other weaknesses within your system.

Vulnerability assessments not only identify known and unknown threats, they also rank vulnerabilities’ severity and allow businesses to set realistic security strategies based on their findings.

Reason #4: Small enterprises have limited resources
The WannaCry and Petya ransomware strains’ successful attacks show that not even organizations with large-scale IT budgets and stringent security controls are safe. Hackers are always searching for vulnerabilities to exploit, and those who fail to patch on time, whether it's due to a shortage of resources or simple negligence, are most susceptible.

Your IT staff has to deal with various tech issues, and security is just one of them. The main role of VA is to detect and fix potential security issues before they are exploited and your business is faced with locked data, stolen passwords, and hefty fines because of compliance violations.

Reason #5: Security breaches are extremely costly
Vulnerability assessment is often seen as expensive, but the cost of not performing one is much bigger. A single security breach can cost a small business several weeks’ or months’ worth of profits. In worst-case scenarios, 60% go out of businesses within six months of the attack.

Hiring a dedicated IT staff to monitor network vulnerabilities is out of the question for many small companies because it is too expensive. A reactive approach to security, which involves fixing vulnerabilities that have already been exploited, results in costs that are impossible to predict. However, a thorough, proactive vulnerability assessment helps businesses avoid significant financial setbacks caused by lost productivity, data, and customer trust.

Cyber security is an ongoing process. At Fluid Networks, we have network defense experts who can identify your system’s vulnerabilities and compliance requirements, and ensure your defenses are set up to get ahead of possible exploits. For robust protections, contact us today.