No matter the industry, no matter the employee count, no matter the revenue numbers, all businesses are susceptible to cyber attacks. When your business stores, processes, or transmits any type of valuable information, it makes you an attractive target to malicious hackers.

How can you learn to protect your business, your employees, your customers, and your data? By staying aware of the top cybersecurity risks for small businesses and performing your due diligence to mitigate risk. Pre-pandemic, 61% of small and medium businesses experienced a cyber attack. Don’t let that be your business.

Let’s look at seven common cybersecurity risks small businesses face.


By now, you’ve heard about ransomware, one of the most common types of attacks that small businesses face. In fact,in 2021, 33% of small businesses were hit by ransomware. Ransomware is a very real threat that is successful every day — not just something you hear about in the news.

Ransomware encrypts files and the attacker holds that information hostage until a ransom is paid. It’s extremely easy to spread through spam, which makes this a low-effort attack for attackers. If small business employees cannot quickly identify spam, that could be the difference between a successful ransomware attack and an unsuccessful ransomware attempt.


How many phishing attempts have you personally experienced in the last month? Probably quite a few through email, text, and phone calls. Phishing is when an attacker aims to steal personal information like credit card information or passwords by presenting a fraudulent source that looks trustworthy.

This is the modern hacker approach to identify theft, and one of the most common cybersecurity risks for small businesses. An example of this is if a CEO had their identity stolen and used to transfer money from their accounts to a hacker.

“If you’re a company, any kind of company, you have a cybersecurity risk.”
- Joe Rudolph, Privacy and Security Officer at Ceeva

How does this happen? Typically, victims are emailed a link, they click it, and then are taken to some type of online portal where they willingly enter personal information, unaware that someone on the other end is stealing this for malicious intent. Phishing can come in many different forms outside of email, so it’s important to empower your employees with knowledge of what phishing is and the confidence to report potential attempts.

In addition to email phishing, employees must know about the following type of attacks:

  • Spear phishing: Attackers target specific individuals with personalized messages, often acting as a colleague or supervisor with an urgent request.
  • Whaling phishing: Attackers use extremely tailored messaging to target high-level employees and steal sensitive personal or corporate information. A whaling attack is especially successful if it convinces a financial executive to conduct a wire transfer.
  •  Smishing: Attackers utilize text messaging to deliver a fraudulent link, which allows them to steal personal information. It’s extremely common for smishing attempts to pose as a package delivery or a bank with an urgent request.
  •  Vishing: Attackers attempt to gain personal information through fraudulent phone calls or voicemails. You’ve probably received a call about your car’s extended car warranty. Yep, that is vishing!

Social Engineering

Social engineering is a cybersecurity risk for small businesses that they don’t even realize they face. This is a creative tactic engineered to trick employees by manipulating human interactions. If successful, the attacker gains unauthorized access to your environment.

The damage that follows depends on what type of social engineering was performed. Social engineering attacks range from simple things, like distracting an employee in order to have the opportunity to physically deploy malware, or it could be more complex and involve more technology.

You would be surprised by just how creative an attacker can be. All they need is a careless, too-trusting, or overloaded employee.

Are you confident that your employees could stand the test of social engineering? If not, it’s in your best interest to look into cybersecurity training with IT experts.


Malware is often the result of successful phishing, social engineering, or a ransomware attack. At the most basic level, malware is malicious, intrusive software that performs unauthorized actions on a computer or computer systems.

Malware’s purpose is to explore a system, then steal or compromise data, then infect, damage, or destroy the system. The most common types of malware include:

  • Trojan Horse: An attacker hides or disguises malware as a legitimate application to gain access to the system.
  • Virus: Malicious code that attacks programs, files, or parts of the operating system by piggybacking on existing systems.
  • Worm: A self-replicating virus that easily goes unnoticed. This type of malware infects a system but does not attach to existing systems.
  • Spyware: A type of hidden malware that records, tracks, and collects usage information on the infected device.
  • Adware: Disruptive code that displays unwanted, malicious pop-up ads.

Because malware is so common and there are so many variants, implementing basic malware protection has become a foundational element of securing business’ perimeters, especially small businesses. Comprehensive malware protection will provide visibility and detection, as well as controls to safeguard environments and devices.

Zero-Day Attacks

Hackers are always on the hunt for bugs or loopholes that will support their attacks. Too often, manufacturers like Microsoft, Google, or Apple have vulnerabilities in their products that they’re not even aware of, which leaves all of that technology open to compromise.

Sometimes these vulnerabilities go unknown for only a few hours, but other times, it could be a few months. A zero-day attack takes place when an attacker discovers and exploits that type of vulnerability to steal data, infect systems, or cause damage.

For small businesses, it’s crucial that you can depend on your Managed Services Provider (MSP) IT team to stay aware and on top of zero-day vulnerabilities and patching updates. This is a foundation element of protection against zero-day attacks.

DDoS Attacks

For small businesses that rely on online systems to deliver products or services, DDoS attacks are a serious threat. A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack is an attacker’s attempt to disrupt a server’s normal Internet traffic by flooding or overwhelming it, which prohibits users from accessing the site.

If a small businesses thinks its susceptible to DDoS attacks, the team should look out for these signs:

  • Sudden performance or availability issues
  • Suspicious traffic patterns
  • Unusual amounts of traffic from one IP address or range
  • Unusual amounts of traffic from users with similar locations or devices
  • Unusual amounts of specific requests

Password Hacking

It may seem like an obvious threat, but password hacking is a daily issue for small businesses. The numbers show that this is a massive attack vector; Microsoft reports that there are 300+ million fraudulent sign-in attempts to their cloud services every day.

If an attacker successfully used brute force or credential stuffing to gain access to one of your employee’s accounts, how much damage could they do? Would any intellectual property be stolen? Would financial information be compromised?

Identity and access management vulnerabilities aren’t going away. Small businesses need to implement basic best practices like Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) and strict password requirements to prevent this type of attack.

Preventing Cybersecurity Risks for Small Businesses Starts with Training

While larger organizations typically have the resources needed to fight cybersecurity threats, small businesses do not — attackers are counting on this and targeting you because of it. They want to leverage your lax procedures and overly-trusting employees. This means you must be even more diligent in securing your data.

A survey by Security Intelligence revealed that 60% of business leaders do not have a cyberattack prevention plan. Don’t give the hackers a chance to steal your data.

The best and most basic way to mitigate risk is to enhance employees’ sense of cybersecurity awareness. By giving your employees the education they need to identify phishing attempts, recognize social engineering, or report adware, you will make great strides in your cybersecurity efforts.

Unsure where to start with training your employees or identifying the cybersecurity risks for your small business? Discuss your risks, options, and IT solutions with a Cybersecurity Expert at Ceeva today!

Free Cybersecurity Essentials Handbook for Small Organizations