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Tom Donohue: Small Businesses Can Beat Cybercrime

Many cybersecurity experts say that there are two types of businesses today — those that have been hacked and know it, and those that have been hacked and don’t know it. As large businesses strengthen their cyber protections, small and medium ones are increasingly the targets of online criminals.

When small and midsize businesses realize that they may be vulnerable to attack, many automatically conclude that they don’t have the resources to adequately protect their networks and data. But there are, in fact, a number of innovative, cost-effective actions that all businesses can take to assess and improve their cybersecurity over time.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce worked closely with industry partners and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to come up with a framework of existing standards and best practices to help companies start a cybersecurity program or improve an existing one. By adopting the practices outlined in the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, all businesses can reduce network and system weaknesses and take steps to deter cyberattacks.

For starters, businesses can improve their cyber risk management by understanding common online threats that often lead to cybercrime, such as malicious software (also known as  malware), computer viruses, spam and phishing schemes. The framework and similar risk-management tools, such as the chamber’s Internet Security Essentials for Business 2.0 guidebook, explain the risks and provide tips for preventing or detecting them.

Cyber experts generally agree that businesses can stop the vast majority of unsophisticated or untargeted malicious activity by implementing the elements of the framework. But companies must be realistic about their risks and continually improve their security efforts.

Small businesses can’t assume that they’ll fly under the radar. And large businesses can’t assume that they’ll be safe by only adopting robust cybersecurity practices at the corporate level.

Precautions must be taken at every step in the supply chain, which is often where criminals find points of vulnerability. So corporations that contract or work with small businesses should help inform their partners of threats and urge them to adopt forward-leaning cyber practices.

To get the word out, the Chamber of Commerce has launched a nationwide campaign to make businesses aware of cybercrime and explain the framework for enhanced Internet security. Learn more about the chamber’s efforts to equip businesses with cybersecurity tools and pursue meaningful policy solutions at

— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.

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