Last year will certainly go down as one of the more memorable periods for problems plaguing business owners. Wildfires, floods, tornadoes and damaging hurricanes tore a path of destruction that had many wishing they'd better prepared. But Mother Nature wasn't the only threat that was seemingly unrelenting. The ominous clouds of cybercrime left business owners with a real mess on their hands.

In 2017, nearly 85 percent of business owners – including small, midsized and large – were impacted by some variety of cyberwarfare, according to newly released statistics from risk solutions firm Kroll. That's up from 82 percent in the 2016 annual poll and 61 percent in 2012. In fact, cyber incidents have risen on an annual basis for five consecutive years.

"Data theft was the most common cyberattack last year for businesses."

From phishing to ransomware, cyber scams come in many forms and varieties, with some more devastating and hard to reverse than others. In 2017, data theft was the most prevalent type, the report found. Nearly 30 percent of managers surveyed acknowledged they were affected by stolen information, a 5 percent uptick from 2016. The second most common was theft of physical assets, like stocks or bonds.

Jason Smolanoff, Kroll senior managing director and global security practice leader, indicated that as the document and payment processing world leans further into the paperless camp, hackers have more opportunities to wreak havoc and cause panic.

"In a digitized world with growing levels of data creation, collection, and reliance for businesses, information assets have become increasingly valuable and exposed to threats," Smolanoff explained. "Exacerbating the challenge of safeguarding data is that criminals and other threat actors are continually developing new ways to monetize confidential information, including personal data."

States fighting back
Business owners aren't taking these attempted incursions lying down, however. In addition to securing high-quality internet security protection they're also obtaining state-of-the-art credit card processing software, which better protects consumers' sensitive data from being illegally accessed. Several states are getting in on the counteroffensive. For instance, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the Attorney General's office just recently announced the creation of a data breach reporting portal. Area firms and organizations are urged to provide an account of what happened promptly should they be impacted by a successful or attempted breach.

In Florida, in partnership and consultation with research and advisory company Gartner, the Florida Center for Cybersecurity newly released a report detailing to what degree local businesses are protecting themselves and the personal data they have on file from customers.

Sri Sridharan, director of the Florida Center for Cybersecurity, said the analysis is meant to supply the Sunshine State's officials with an update on how resilient businesses are to the effects of cyber incidents.

"Good decisions come from good information," Sridharan explained. "For this report, Gartner looked at many aspects of cybersecurity – from education, workforce demand, and economic factors to technical issues such as incident response capability.

He added that given the ubiquity of data theft, consumers, educational facilities and business entities can't afford to be reactive; they must be proactive.

"Attacks are costing businesses more to recover from."

Incidents cost businesses 7 percent of annual revenues
Some who may be taking cybersecurity too cavalierly are paying a costly price. In 2017, cyberattacks caused businesses economic losses averaging between 5 percent and 10 percent of revenues, the Kroll annual fraud and risk report found. That's up from a 3 percent average overall in 2016.

Being victimized by a cyberattack can unspool a thread of challenges and liabilities that can be next to impossible to control once hackers find an opening. Credit card payment software from 911 Software can help you stay one step ahead. Learn more about our products, processors and services at the top of our homepage.