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9/24/2010
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The Top Five Ways Attackers Target Small Businesses -- And What You Can Do About It

SMBs are becoming a favorite target for cybercriminals. Is your organization taking the right steps to stop them?

[Excerpted from "SMBs in the Crosshairs: Understanding the Threats, Defending the Business," a new report posted this week on Dark Reading's SMB Security Tech Center]

Most industry experts agree that cybercrime will soon be a trillion-dollar industry. That's not a typo: Cybercrime will be a trillion-dollar industry. Businesses of all sizes are at risk, but small businesses in particular are a filet mignon for hacks and digital criminals.

From a technology perspective, SMBs typically lack the time, expertise, and money required to properly harden their perimeters. Perpetuating the problem is a small-business user community that will access any site or install any application that suits them -- in disregard or ignorance of the danger. And many SMBs still believe that because they're small, no hacker would be interested in them.

Are SMBs really more vulnerable than larger businesses? Just ask a hacker how confident he feels about successfully penetrating the SMB network perimeter.

Some small businesses take a big business approach to security and focus an inordinate amount of resources on protecting themselves from internal threats. Focusing on insider threats may be warranted if you're an SMB working a classified government contract, but for most SMBs, the primary threat exists outside the network perimeter.

For the most part, hacks and malware developers will attack SMBs in the same way they do big business, with the only difference being the rate of success. Let’s examine the five key threat vectors that all SMB IT managers should take into account when designing a defense strategy.

P2P applications. If your usage policy allows for the downloading of Morpheus, Kaaza or any other peer-to-peer application, then you might as well just shut down your firewall now and give all of your users a static IP address on the Internet. A leading concern for malware developers is distribution, and P2P networks are a great way to get your hack out there. Any P2P application worth its salt is firewall friendly and can easily piggyback over the HTTP protocol in an effort to circumvent your firewall policy.

Drive-by downloads. Clients running an older browser are particularly vulnerable to drive-by downloads. By injecting a hidden iFrame (or something similar) into the source code of a particular Web page, a hacker can silently execute a script or drop a downloader onto the local system for the purpose of delivering malware, or worse. Ever browse to a perfectly legitimate Web site, only to be hit with the horror of seeing the dreaded Antivirus XP (a popular piece of malware that has infected millions of PCs) scanner initiate its payload? You just got hit by a drive-by download.

Active content inside attachments. There was a time when PDF files were a safe haven from viruses and worms. However, once Acrobat started to support JavaScript, all of that changed. Adobe provides a powerful API for creating dynamic PDFs that can interact with the user, access back-end databases and support file attachments, among other things. Unfortunately, that opens up a new attack vector for malware developers.

Phishing attacks. By far the most pervasive of attack vectors, the standard e-mail-borne phishing attack, is extremely difficult to completely eliminate, even with best-of-breed mail security products. Unfortunately, many people continue to fall victim every day. Whether it’s a pump-and-dump penny stock scheme, a bogus charity. or a get-rich-quick scheme, email will continue to be a preferred medium for propagating scams.

Social networking. Ever receive an email from a Facebook friend linking you to an "embarrassing" picture that you just have to see right away? Run your mouse pointer over the hyperlink and see if it actually resolves to the Facebook domain. URL obfuscation is the easiest and oldest trick in the book for propagating malware, and it’s an extremely effective way to ensnare unsuspecting victims. Keep an eye out for bogus links, fake friend requests and instant message pop-ups.

For a look at three of the most common security vulnerabilities found in SMBs -- as well as eight ways that SMBs can make themselves a more difficult target -- download the report now.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

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