Time for service providers to help guard SMEs from cyberattacks

Over the past two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to digitalise to better survive the economic uncertainty.

However, despite the need for digitalisation to maintain growth, many SMEs are still reluctant to digitalise their businesses. A study by the SME Association of Malaysia found only 26 per cent of SMEs had digitalised their businesses.

Another survey by SME Corp and Huawei, found that SMEs that had adopted digitalisation, mostly used social media (60 per cent) and mobile internet (63.8 per cent), with a small number implementing data analytics (6.3 per cent). This is indicative of the potential for growth in optimising digitalisation among SMEs.

Even though e-commerce boomed during the pandemic, many SMEs had not taken holistic steps to protect themselves against threats like cyberattacks, which can cause significant harm.

Business owners need to get serious about the risks that come with operating remotely from home. Small businesses are vulnerable to the same threats as home internet users. The threats include malicious emails, phishing attacks, fraud, and malware. These threats put business operations at risk, especially if such attacks infect the corporate network and compromise customer and financial data.

Many SMEs believe they are unlikely to become victims of cyberattacks due to their small business structure. A report by Chubb published before the pandemic found that 67 per cent of Malaysian SMEs believed that they are less likely to become victims compared to larger corporations, yet the same report found that 84 per cent of SMEs fell victim to cyberattacks in 2018.

As more people worked from home as a result of the pandemic, cyber criminals are targeting vulnerable internet users across the board, without differentiating between business, and home internet users.

Remote work also creates a security risk where personnel working outside business-based secure networks can become the target of cybercrime, such as ransomware attacks.

While awareness is growing among SMEs, the cost factor and a lack of in-house expertise are the main stumbling blocks in acquiring appropriate and sufficient cybersecurity protection.

Cognisant of the needs of SMEs and acknowledging the growth in digitalisation in the wake of the pandemic, cybersecurity service providers have introduced more and more plans and services targeted at SMEs with limited resources and budgets.

There are many cybersecurity solutions available to large enterprises, but few are designed to cater to the cybersecurity needs of SMEs.

SMEs need an accessible, cost-efficient, subscription-based service, instead of making huge, upfront investments into hardware.

They need solutions that are easier to deploy and manage, given their smaller IT departments. They also need managed services support from service providers to address the potential lack of in-house cybersecurity expertise.

Now is the right time for service providers to step up and fill this gap.

Vignesa Moorthy is the chief executive officer of ViewQwest – a regional telecommunications service provider of, among others, managed networks and security solutions.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.