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Small businesses easy prey to cyber crime: Symantec study

Veronica C. Silva | July 19, 2012
More than 30 percent of small businesses are being targeted.

If your business has 250 people or less, then chances are you're one of the likely targets of cyber criminals.

According to cyber security company Symantec, more than a third of global targeted attacks are aimed against small- and medium-sized businesses, defined as having 250 people or less.

A recent report by Symantec has noted an increase in incidents of targeted attacks in the last six months, with 36 percent of all targeted attacks, or 58 per day, aimed at small businesses.  This incident report is from Symantec's June 2012 Symantec Intelligence Report. According to the Internet Security Trend Report 2011 released recently, the attacks were only at 18 percent as of end-December 2011.

During the first half of the year, the total number of daily targeted attacks increased at a minimum rate of 24 percent with an average of 151 targeted attacks being blocked each day during May and June, Symantec said.


Large enterprises with more than 2,500 employees, however, are still receiving the greatest number of attacks, with an average 69 being blocked each day.

"There appears to be a direct correlation between the rise in attacks against smaller businesses and a drop in attacks against larger ones. It almost seems attackers are diverting their resources directly from one group to the other," said Paul Wood, cyber security intelligence manager, Symantec.

While some companies may not really be the primary target of cyber attacks, Wood noted that a company may also be used as a "stepping stone" to attack another company.

"You do not want your business to be the weakest link in the supply chain. Information is power, and the attackers know this, and successful attacks can result in significant financial advantage for the cyber criminals behind them. Access to intellectual property and strategic intelligence can give them huge advantages in a competitive market," Wood said.

Types of attacks

Among the different types of cyber attacks, the June 2012 Symantec report noted a continued decrease in the global ratio of spam in e-mail traffic. Following the diminishing trend from the latter part of 2011, Symantec noted that the global ratio fell by one percentage point since May to 66.8 percent or one in 1.5 e-mails.

Symantec also reported that Singapore is seeing a similar trend where the ratio of spam in e-mail traffic declined from 66.9 percent to 65.8 percent.

Phishing and e-mail-borne threats are on the rise, however, an increase by 0.04 percentage points for both types of cyber attacks. The global rate for phishing stood at 467.6 e-mails, or 0.21 percent while the global ratio of e-mail-borne viruses in e-mail was one in 316.5 e-mails, or 0.31 percent.


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