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Survey Finds that Despite Threats, Most Small Business Owners Don’t Fear a Cyber Attack

  • A recent Paychex survey finds 68 percent of small business owners are not concerned about cyber threats; nearly all respondents are confident they could recover from a hack.
  • However, 10 percent of those surveyed had suffered a small-scale intrusion; 9 percent had experienced a large-scale national or international attack.
  • 33 percent said they were "very confident" their business could rebound from a cyber attack.
  • Small firms are particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Feeling confident about your small company's cyber security? If so, you're not alone. A recent Paychex survey that polled 341 principals of U.S. companies with one to 500 employees found that 68 percent of small business owners shrug off threats to their computer systems, and 90 percent report having at least some confidence that their business could recover from a hack, should it happen. This despite the fact that more than 70 percent of cyber attacks target small firms, and the cost of recovery can force an organization out of business.

October is National Cyber Security Month. It's a good time for small business owners to evaluate the security of their computer systems, as cyber threats are on the rise. But the latest Small Business Snapshot from Paychex indicates a significant level of confidence that could make businesses particularly vulnerable.

68% of small business owners don't fear a cyber attack

Despite worldwide cyber threats, many companies are cavalier about risks – even after a hack

Although most survey respondents expressed a certain fearlessness about the threat of a cyber attack, many admitted that they're not immune. In fact, 10 percent of those surveyed had suffered a small-scale intrusion; 9 percent had experienced a large-scale national or international attack from ransomware such as Wannacry. To date, this malicious software has affected more than 200,000 computers in 150 countries, locking people out of their data and demanding ransom money to restore the information. Wannacry counts hospitals, banks, telecommunications firms, and warehouses among its many victims.

Outside hackers and professional cyber criminals aren't the entire problem, either. A business’ own employees can pose a risk as well. Of those surveyed, 10 percent of respondents said they had found a worker disclosing confidential business information online, either accidentally or on purpose. Nine percent suspected an employee of doing the same.

Despite the risks lurking in the digital ether, and even with some history of data breaches, business owners surveyed showed a high level of assurance that they could overcome a cyber attack. When asked "On a scale of 1 (not at all confident) to 5 (very confident), how confident are you that your business would be able to rebound from a cyber attack?," respondents said:

5 – Very confident: 33%

4 – 22%

3 – Somewhat confident: 35%

2 – 4%

1 – Not at all confident: 6%

Despite a high level of confidence, small business owners should be worried, as they generally lack the protections most larger businesses have in place. Along with cyber security protections, it’s in small businesses’ best interest to follow certain protocols such as a documented information security policy, logical access restrictions, robust logging and review, and device and application patching.

Make cyber security a year-round concern

Why not use National Cyber Security Month to examine your systems and amend vulnerabilities? Better yet, emphasize cyber awareness and best practices year-round to your employees and follow through on making sure everyone is abiding by them.

Another best practice you may want to consider is using cyber breach liability insurance, as most traditional business insurance policies don't cover the myriad expenses a cyber attack may incur. The Paychex Insurance Agency can provide in-depth information on this important safeguard and offers products to fit your firm's needs.


About the Paychex Small Business Survey

Data included in the Paychex Small Business Snapshot was taken from the results of the Paychex Small Business Survey, administered by Bredin, a third-party research firm specializing in small business. The survey was conducted online between August 18, 2017 and August 24, 2017 and polled 341 principals of U.S. companies with 1-500 employees.

Insurance is sold and serviced by Paychex Insurance Agency, Inc., 150 Sawgrass Dr., Rochester, NY 14620. CA License #0C28207.

This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.