Top 10 Biggest Cybersecurity Threats That Small Businesses Face And How To Stop Them

top 10 cyber security threats

With the level of technological growth in the last decade, cybersecurity should be a top priority for businesses of all sizes. Even small businesses that rely on websites to showcase their products, process customer orders, and handle payments are vulnerable to cyber threats.

Without proper protection, companies can be targeted by various types of attacks, such as data breaches, ransomware attacks, and phishing scams.

The consequences of these attacks can be severe, including financial losses, reputational damage, legal liabilities, and even business closure.

Cybercriminals often perceive small businesses as easy targets because they lack the resources and expertise to implement robust cybersecurity defenses.

However, investing in cybersecurity measures can protect your business from potential financial losses as a result of fraudulent transactions, customer distrust, and legal consequences.

In this article, we will guide you through the most common cybersecurity threats that small businesses face and provide practical strategies tailored to your needs as a small business owner.

From implementing basic security measures to creating a culture of cybersecurity awareness among employees, every step you take towards strengthening your defenses will contribute to the resilience and prosperity of your business in the face of evolving cyber threats.

Exploring the Top 10 Cybersecurity Threats for Small Businesses

1Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Attacks

In a report by Acunetix, XSS vulnerabilities accounted for 41% of all security vulnerabilities identified in 2021.

Cybersecurity Threats

A small e-commerce website that allows users to input comments or reviews can be vulnerable to XSS attacks. A cybercriminal could inject malicious code into the website, which, when executed by unsuspecting users, can steal their session cookies or redirect them to phishing sites.

2 – Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)

A manufacturing company may become a target of APTs seeking to steal intellectual property or sabotage operations.

Attackers could use sophisticated techniques like spear-phishing emails or supply chain attacks to gain persistent access to the company’s network. A study by the Ponemon Institute found that the average cost of a data breach caused by an APT attack is $3.5 million.

3 – Phishing

The statistics from the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) show phishing attacks were the most common type of cybercrime reported in 2020, with losses exceeding $54 million.

In an analogy to demonstrate how phish occurs, let’s take the scenario of an accounting firm that receives an email appearing to be from a client requesting urgent financial information.

The email contains a link to a fake login page designed to steal the firm’s credentials. Falling for this phishing attempt could lead to unauthorized access to sensitive client data.

4 – Ransomware Attacks

The average ransomware payment in 2021 was $136,576, according to Coveware’s Quarterly Ransomware Report. An illustration of ransomware is when a clinic’s computer system is infected with a software virus, rendering patient records inaccessible.

The attackers then demand a ransom payment for decrypting the data, threatening to leak sensitive medical information if payment is not made.

5 – Insider Threats

An example of insider threat is when an employee of a tech startup with access to valuable source code decides to leave the company and takes the code with them to use in a competing venture.

Insider Threats

This insider threat compromises the company’s intellectual property and competitive advantage. The 2021 Insider Threat Report by Cybersecurity Insiders found that 98% of organizations feel vulnerable to insider threats.

6 – Malware

According to AV-TEST, over 450,000 new malware samples are detected every day. A scenario of a malware breach is when a marketing agency inadvertently downloads malware onto its systems by opening an email attachment from an unknown sender.

The malware spreads throughout the network, causing data breaches, system slowdowns, and potentially financial losses.

7 – DDoS Attacks

For a perfect example to demonstrate what DDoS attacks look like, take an online retailer’s website, which a DDoS attack could target, flooding it with fake traffic and overwhelming its servers.

As a result, legitimate customers cannot access the website, leading to a loss of sales and damage to the company’s reputation. Akamai’s State of the Internet Security report revealed that DDoS attacks increased by 57% yearly.

8 – Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks

The Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found that 35% of breaches involved using stolen credentials. A law firm could be targeted by a MitM attack when an employee connects their laptop containing sensitive data to an unsecured public Wi-Fi network while working remotely.

An attacker on the same network intercepts the firm’s internet traffic, allowing them to eavesdrop on sensitive communications or manipulate data exchanged between the firm and its clients.

9 – SQL Injection

As indicated in the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), SQL injection is still one of the top 10 most critical web application security risks.

An online forum’s website is vulnerable to SQL injection if its system easily allows cybercriminals to execute malicious SQL queries and gain unauthorized access to its database. The attackers can steal user credentials, modify forum posts, or even delete the entire database.

10 – Compromised  Credentials

The 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found that 61% of breaches involved compromised credentials.

A company that neglects to enforce strong password policies, allowing employees to use weak or easily guessable passwords, paves the way for cybercriminals to exploit this weakness by brute-forcing login credentials and gaining unauthorized access to sensitive company data or systems.

Practical Strategies for Combatting Cybersecurity Threats

Small businesses must address vulnerabilities like cross-site scripting and insider threats to ensure resilience in an interconnected world.

Here are practical strategies for combating cybersecurity threats:

Guarding Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Attacks

Implementing input validation and output encoding is essential when building web applications to prevent malicious scripts from infiltrating them.

Cross-Site Scripting

For example, in 2020, a major XSS vulnerability was discovered in the Zoom video conferencing software, allowing attackers to execute arbitrary code on users’ computers, potentially compromising sensitive data.

According to the Acunetix Web Application Vulnerability Report 2020, XSS vulnerabilities accounted for 28% of all web application vulnerabilities detected.

Protecting Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)

Small businesses can prevent Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) by implementing network segmentation and intrusion detection systems (IDS) and carrying out regular threat hunting.

A notable example of an APT group is APT28, also known as Fancy Bear, which has carried out numerous high-profile cyber-espionage campaigns globally. According to the 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), APTs were responsible for 11% of the data breaches analyzed.

Strategies for Phishing Prevention

Small businesses can prevent phishing attacks by regularly training employees to identify and report phishing emails. Additionally, implementing email filtering and authentication protocols can also help.

In 2016, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) suffered from a phishing attack that compromised sensitive emails and impacted the U.S. presidential election. According to the 2021 Verizon DBIR report, phishing was the top initial action in breaches, accounting for 36% of the breaches analyzed.

Measures Against Ransomware Attacks

Small businesses can protect against ransomware through regular data backup, updating software, and endpoint protection solutions. In 2017, the WannaCry ransomware attack affected over 200,000 computers worldwide, causing widespread disruption. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that ransomware damages will reach $265 billion by 2031, with an attack occurring every 11 seconds.

Mitigating Insider Threats

Businesses can avoid insider threats by establishing access controls that give employees the minimum access required to perform their duties.

It is also crucial to monitor employee behavior to identify any suspicious activity. Also, regular security awareness training should be conducted to educate employees on best practices for maintaining security.

The 2013 unauthorized disclosure of classified NSA documents by Edward Snowden highlights the potential damage that insider threats can cause. According to the 2021 Insider Threat Report by Cybersecurity Insiders, 68% of organizations are moderately to extremely vulnerable to insider attacks.

Protecting Against Malware

Installing antivirus and anti-malware software and performing regular scans is crucial to protect your devices from harmful software. In 2017, the NotPetya malware attack caused billions of dollars in damages to organizations worldwide.

According to Symantec’s 2021 Internet Security Threat Report, ransomware detections saw a 358% increase in 2020 compared to the previous year.

Preventing DDoS Attacks

For small businesses to defend against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, it is necessary to implement mitigation solutions and utilize Content Delivery Networks (CDNs).

In 2016, the Mirai botnet attack disrupted primary internet services globally. According to the DDoS Threat Landscape Report by Nexusguard for 2021, DDoS attacks rose by 287% in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the previous year.

Preventing MitM (Man-in-the-Middle) Attacks

Businesses can avoid Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) through the crucial use of encryption protocols, secure Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).

For instance, the Superfish adware pre-installed on Lenovo laptops 2015 exploited MitM techniques. While the statistics on MitM attacks may differ, they still pose a significant threat, particularly on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks.

Avoiding SQL Injection

Implement measures such as parameterized queries, input validation, and regularly updating and patching database systems to avoid SQL Injection.

An example of the severity of such attacks is the 2012 SQL injection attack on the South Carolina Department of Revenue, which resulted in millions of compromised tax records. It is important to note that SQL injection is still among the top web application vulnerabilities, as indicated in the OWASP Top 10.

Secure Password Practices

Businesses can improve the security of passwords by enforcing strong password policies, implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA), and using password managers.

In 2014, Yahoo experienced a data breach that exposed over 3 billion user accounts due to weak password encryption practices. The 2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) revealed that stolen credentials were used in 80% of hacking-related breaches.


Cybersecurity is an essential concern for not only large corporations but also small businesses. With the increasing frequency and complexity of cyber threats, it is crucial to take proactive measures to safeguard valuable assets and maintain customer trust.

Small businesses can adopt practical strategies to combat specific cybersecurity threats that can help fortify their defenses, mitigate risks, and thrive in the digital age. Furthermore, creating a culture of cybersecurity awareness and investing in ongoing education and training for employees can enhance resilience against evolving threats.

To summarize,  In an ever-changing and interconnected digital landscape, small businesses can protect their future success by prioritizing cybersecurity as crucial to business operations in

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