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Businesses with Fewer Than 10 Employees Continue to Underestimate Cyber Threats Even as More Work Remotely, New Cyber Readiness Institute Survey Finds

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With 89 percent of small businesses moving to a remote workforce during COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, a significant gap remains between the perceived importance of cybersecurity protections for businesses with fewer than 10 employees and those with more than 10 employees. The smaller the business, the smaller the focus on cybersecurity, according to a new survey of 400 small business owners, conducted by the Cyber Readiness Institute (CRI).

A remote workforce during COVID-19 increased the cybersecurity concerns of just 31 percent of small business owners with fewer than 10 employees, while 41 percent of those at companies with more than 10 employees were more apprehensive of possible cyberattacks.

The lower concern levels for micro-businesses has also equated to much smaller investments in cybersecurity. Only 45 percent of small business owners with fewer than 10 employees have increased time, money, or human capital investments as it relates to cybersecurity. Meanwhile, 80 percent of companies with more than 10 employees have invested more resources in cybersecurity since stay-at-home orders began.

“For malicious actors looking for vulnerable targets, small businesses remain a primary target, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kiersten Todt, executive director of The Cyber Readiness Institute. “Small businesses can make themselves resilient against common attacks, such as phishing, by focusing on employee education and awareness and creating a culture of cyber readiness within the organization.”

When it comes to training, more than half of small business owners with more than 10 employees have upped the ante with increased cyber education over the past two months. Yet, just 22 percent of those with fewer than 10 employees have provided more cyber training and only 37 percent have updated cyber policies.

The Cyber Readiness Institute has outlined basic steps in a series of guides that are free and that every organization can use to secure their remote workforce. Good cyber hygiene practices that focus on using secure passwords, ensuring that all operating systems and applications are up to date, understanding tricks used by bad actors, and prohibiting the use of USB memory sticks and other removable storage devices, can go a long way in preventing cyberattacks.

Additional survey findings include:

  • 49 percent of small businesses will still maintain at least a partial remote workforce after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
  • 62 percent of small business owners support tax incentives or federal grants for cybersecurity investments.
  • Password management and phishing attacks are the top two concerns for nearly half of all small business owners.
  • 35 percent of small businesses with fewer than 10 employees do not have an incident response policy.
  • More than 42 percent of businesses have provided additional password training or policies over the past two months.
  • 30 percent of small businesses have used new free cybersecurity tools since work-at-home orders began.
  • 25 percent of small business owners anticipate hiring new cybersecurity staff or consultants over the next six months.

About the Cyber Readiness Institute The Cyber Readiness Institute is a non-profit initiative of the Center for Global Enterprise (CGE). CRI convenes business leaders from across sectors and geographic regions to share resources and knowledge that inform the development of free cybersecurity tools for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Institute seeks to advance the cyber readiness of SMEs to improve the security of global value chains. CRI focuses on human behavior and creating cultures of security. The Institute’s Cyber Readiness Program is a practical, step-by-step online guide that is available in Chinese, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and Japanese. To find out more about CRI and to access our Cyber Readiness Program and series of Remote Work Resource Guides, please visit www.becyberready.com.

For more information, contact Adam Benson at 202.999.9104 or adam@vrge.us.