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Cyber attacks hitting small businesses

Many small business owners may think they’re too small to be victims of cyber hackers, but they’re wrong. How wrong? Cyber attacks targeting small businesses have risen from 18 percent in late 2011 to 36 percent today. Perhaps that’s not surprising when 87 percent of small businesses don’t have a formal written Internet policy for employees. If there’s any doubt as to the impact, according to the National Cyber Security Alliance, 60 percent of small businesses will close within six months of a cyber attack.

Cyber attacks targeting small businesses have risen from 18 percent in late 2011 to 36 percent today

Every insurer’s BOP customer needs to understand that cybersecurity and the insurance protection designed to shield small businesses from cyber attacks have become essential parts of their business survival. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), cyber attackers sometimes use small businesses—which they see as easy targets—to attack larger businesses, possibly through the supply chain or payment portals. NIST developed a guide for small business owners not experienced in cybersecurity that explains basic steps they can take to better protect their information systems. The publication, Small Business Information Security, walks users through a simple risk assessment to understand their vulnerabilities. Worksheets help them identify the information they store and use, determine its value, and evaluate the risk to the business and customers if confidentiality, integrity, or availability are compromised.

The guide describes how to:

  • limit employee access to data and information
  • train employees on information security
  • create policies and procedures for information security
  • encrypt data
  • install web and email filters
  • patch or update operating systems and applications
  • perform cost-benefit analyses if the purchase of new equipment is required

It’s important to remember that small businessowners are people first. They need knowledge and guidance on issues such as cybersecurity and insurance protection that you and your agents can provide. Your BOP insureds may also benefit from an informative infographic illustrating the importance of Internet security practices available from the National Cyber Security Alliance. For more information on BOP underwriting please visit

Rick Stoll

Rick Stoll is vice president for commercial underwriting products at Verisk. You can contact him at

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