Top 5 Cybersecurity Challenges for Small-to-Medium Businesses

For most organizations, cybersecurity feels like a dark cloud looming over the business. With countless tools on the market, an industry filled with jargon, and an inevitable learning curve for IT teams, cybersecurity management feels less accessible despite being more critical than ever.

For both start-ups and small-to-medium businesses, building a strong security posture is necessary—despite how daunting it may feel. More than 43% of SMBs experienced a breach, and of those companies, only 14% are equipped to defend themselves.

For start-ups or other venture capital-backed organizations, a breach is one of the worst nightmares for a founder. Imagine calling your investors and explaining to them that your business suffered a data breach, then breaking the news to your early adopters or enterprise customers. Bouncing back from an attack, especially, with limited resources, is incredibly challenging (and for many, impossible).

To quote Forbes:  If you’re still in denial about the chances of your small business becoming a victim, know that 61% of all SMBs have reported at least one cyber attack during the previous year.

While this seems like a scary reality, we’re not in the business of fear-mongering. It’s imperative to know the facts, but managing security operations doesn’t need to be complicated. Platforms like ContraForce are designed specifically for SMBs and create simplified, affordable ways for organizations to manage their security efforts.

If tools like ContraForce exist, why are SMBs still struggling to stay secure? Let’s walk through it.

Top Security Challenges for SMBs:

1. SMBs don’t know what they don’t know

You might think otherwise, but all humans—every single one—have gaps in their knowledge. Gasp!  Machine learning experts are using AI to ask better questions in an effort to close these knowledge gaps (Google posted a research paper on it, here).

On top of those knowledge gaps, cybersecurity is an ever-changing and never-ending race. The landscape changes quickly and dramatically, especially as remote work and digital transformation continue to evolve. Hackers are becoming more sophisticated, using machine learning to increase the speed and efficacy of their attacks.


Between the sheer amount of information paired with the speed at which the information changes, it’s nearly impossible for small IT teams to stay ahead of the curve. IT teams are notably overwhelmed and under-staffed: adding a complex job requirement to the gamut has more negative implications than positive.

Before jumping to conclusions about adding IT staff, let’s look at number two.

2. Tight on resources, time, and budget

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: hiring an internal security team (or SOC) is really, really expensive and really, really time-consuming. The average cyber security professional in the United States is over 117,000 dollars (and additional benefits and other perks on top of that). Additionally, there’s a severe tech talent shortage: there will be an estimated 3.5 million unfilled security jobs by 2025.

You might think that the next best option is to outsource your security operations by engaging with a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP). Partnering with an MSSP can be equally expensive and getting stuck in a pricey contract isn’t ideal. Along with the financial burdens it may cause, MSSPs come with a slew of other risks, like:

  • Failing to assess your security strengths and weaknesses
  • Assuming the vendor knows how your internal systems work
  • Access to limited integrations and analytics
  • Requiring your IT team to manage alert notifications and incident mediation
  • Offloading the responsibility of protecting your business assets to someone else
  • And more
As ContraForce CEO says, “You wouldn’t outsource a CEO position. Why would you outsource your security?”

3. Misconceptions about “readiness”

In a recent study, researchers found that 57% of SMBs believe they won’t fall victim to a cyberattack. Uh, what? We’ll be real with you: it’s no longer “if” you’ll be breached— it’s “when.” Because we’re feeling quote-y, we’ll use another here by one of ContraForce’s customers: “When you’re interacting with your customer and their customer database, it’s your responsibility to be the custodian of that data. It takes a lot more than just compliance to ensure this.”

Point being, the moment you have customers, you have data to be protected. And you’re liable for it. Attackers know which organizations are vulnerable, and they will attack those organizations time and time again. It’s never too early to invest in security operations.

4. Overwhelmed with tools on the market

There are a ton— a ton— of security tools on the market (and we know that because we’re one of them). You have tools for it all: Managed (or Extended) Detection and Response, compliance monitoring, SIEM, multi-factor authentication, firewalls, you name it. Organizations also have an existing tech stack, often including Microsoft and Office 365, antivirus, SaaS applications, and more.

That’s a lot of tools generating a lot of data (data that lives in a million different places, populating a million different metrics, and creating a million different sources of “truth”). It’s impossible for IT teams to keep their organization safe if they rely on disparate data and lack visibility.

5. Not sure where to start

Managing security operations is really hard, especially for SMBs.

Believe it or not, if you’re unsure how to start (but are reading this post!), you are actually way ahead of most companies. The key to getting started is to find tools that are built for simplicity and with your specific needs in mind.

ContraForce, for example, delivers a radically simple security operations tool. It’s designed specifically for SMBs and to be used by IT generalists, not experienced cybersecurity professionals. The platform provides around-the-clock threat detection and response, then verifies each threat so IT teams aren’t sifting through insignificant alerts. It walks users through guided remediation steps so there’s no learning curve on how to respond to threats. With incident report playbooks, users can resolve threats with a single click. The platform also integrates with an organization’s existing tech stack, compiling the data from each tool into a single dashboard. With a holistic overview of your entire environment, users have increased visibility so data isn’t overlooked or disaggregated.

Plus, ContraForce, and many other tools, are free to use.

Lastly, know that you aren’t alone in this journey.  The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Agency (CISA) has an arsenal of resources for SMBs, like a Cyber Essentials Starter Kit that illustrates the basics for building a “culture of cyber readiness.” The White House is regularly releasing news and updates on national security concerns, and there are Reddit threads and digital forums in every corner of the internet. Trusted security companies like ContraForce, ISG, and Dark Reading publish regular resources.

What can SMBs do next?

Security may be the most critical area of your business, but it doesn’t have to be the most challenging.

For existing IT teams, you can get started with ContraForce on your own, for free, and be completely onboarded in 15 minutes. You can also schedule a demo or reach out to our Customer Advocate team, here.

Get Started with ContraForce Today

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