Biggest Cyber-Blind Spot for Small Business Owners? Remote Workers

Staff Report

Friday, August 9th, 2019

As work-life and technology continue to evolve, a growing number of small business owners find themselves adopting remote work policies or "WFH" perks. However, their employees, who use company platforms and networks in popular locations such as coffee shops and airports, are more susceptible to the risk of an online attack.

According to Nationwide's fifth annual Business Owner Survey, 83 percent of small business owners allow and offer employees the option to work securely from a remote location when needed and appropriate. With young business owners (those ranging from ages 18-34), this number jumps up to 95 percent. Yet, only 50 percent of small business owners have updated their remote work security policy in the past year.  Failing to continually revise remote work policies in the growing digital workplace could put those business owners at higher risk of a cyber-attack.

"An ounce of prevention" found lacking…
Though remote employees place businesses at risk, many small business owners are not properly mitigating other potential cyberthreats, nor are they adequately protecting their employee platforms. According to the Nationwide survey, only four percent of business owners have implemented all of the cybersecurity best practices and recommendations from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Further, one in five small business owners have not committed their employees to formal cybersecurity training, despite the reality that employees represent one of their largest threats.

"What may seem like a harmless public Wi-Fi network could ultimately pose serious troubles for a business," says Catherine Rudow, vice president of cyber insurance at Nationwide. "Many employees may not realize the magnitude of risk associated with a cyberattack as they may not have engaged in a formal training process. The scary truth is that many small business owners, even if they are aware of these risks, have not implemented all the proper measures of protection."  

Best practices
For education and cyber-prevention, the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends the following best practices:

Establish security practices and policies to protect sensitive information

Educate employees about cyberthreats and hold them accountable

Require employees to use strong passwords and to change them often

Employ best practices on payment cards

Make backup copies of important business data and information

Create a mobile device action plan

Protect all pages on your public-facing websites, not just the checkout and sign-up pages

Portrait of the cyberthreat for small businesses
Nationwide's Business Owner Survey also found:

65 percent of business owners admit they have been victim of a cyberattack; computer virus attacks are the top type of attack reported at 33 percent, phishing is number two at 29 percent.

86 percent of business owners believe that digital risk will continue to grow.

30 percent of companies with 11-50 employees do not provide any type of formal training on cybersecurity.

Despite the simplicity of regularly updating software, seven percent of companies still fail to take that step.

Reputational risk is among the top reasons (45 percent) why business owners would consider investing in or purchasing a cybersecurity policy.

35 percent of business owners who have never experienced a cyberattack are unaware of the financial cost to recover, highlighting a dangerous gap in knowledge from the implications.