Air Date

December 3, 2020

Featured Guests

Maitland Muse
Executive Vice President, AppGuard

Marni Pastor
COO, Flexable

Joanne Sanders
President, EWISE Communications


Jeanette Mulvey
Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, CO—


2020 has been an unprecedented year that has required small businesses to pivot to survive the coronavirus pandemic. Adapting to a virtual working environment has forced business leaders to rely on digital platforms to conduct business, which has opened them to another threat: cybercrime.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, companies have experienced a dramatic rise in cyberattacks, especially small businesses. In a CO— Blueprint panel, content director Jeanette Mulvey spoke with a cybersecurity expert and two business leaders to discuss the state of cybercrime in 2020.

Small Businesses Are a Primary Target for Cybercrime

Because so many small businesses had to quickly adapt to a remote working environment and aren't prepared for online attacks, hackers and bad actors took advantage of the situation in force.

"Roughly 50% of cyberattacks are targeting small businesses," said Maitland Muse, executive vice president of global channels and strategic alliances of AppGuard. "It is a major threat to ... small businesses in particular, primarily because many don't have the staff [to manage cybersecurity threats]."

There are many different ways a hacker can infiltrate a business's systems, but one of the most common methods to exploit unsuspecting employees by encouraging them to click something they shouldn't, often in the form of an email.

"If my employees aren't trained correctly...that one click can put me out of business, especially if they get through and hold hostage my systems," added Muse. "60% of small businesses after a cyberattack are forced out of business."

Hackers Are Often Hired Professionals Carrying Out Targeted Small Business Attacks

Many people have an image in mind of who a hacker is and what they look like. Often, this image is of shadowy figures operating in the dark with their own greedy motivations, but the truth is many hackers are paid professionals who are hired by others to cause a targeted attack.

"Professionals are being paid to develop new tips and tricks to get into your system," said Muse. "That is their job. They take it very seriously. There's a high reward for them, so they're just figuring out how to get behind something that you commonly use or something you commonly do."

The implications of hackers being hired for a job is concerning because they are paid to spend their day focusing on how to access business systems, including sensitive files, payroll data or personal information of their consumers.

Educating Employees Is Key to Prevent Cyber Threats

If your small business has been hacked by a malicious hacker, you may feel hopeless and that your business is ruined. However, you have several options to secure your business, prevent future attacks and continue growing.

"[We were becoming] more and more digital with COVID ... and as we were implementing all of these new systems, clearly we were just becoming more vulnerable to cyberattack," said Joanne Sanders, president of EWISE Communications. "We absolutely were a victim of spoofing and phishing incidents."

After experiencing a series of attacks that were clearly coordinated and compounded one after the other, the company investigated more closely and they started putting processes in place to correct the issue, starting with educating team members.

"We, as a team, brainstorm on what we need to do and some people were researching in different areas and then everyone was sharing that information throughout this journey and that ended up educating everybody," said Sanders. "[It was] like a master's class that the employees got."

As employees educated each other and cyber security became a regular discussion in the workplace, the company became better equipped to resolve their current cyber threats and prevent future attacks.

"It has taken care of 70 or 80% of our issues." Sanders added. "It's been amazing."

From the Series

CO— Blueprint