Equifax's Data Breach Sends Wake-Up Call to Small Business Owners

Data security should be one of your business's priorities.

The Equifax breach is reminding small business owners that they may be vulnerable to cybercriminals

Small businesses often lag behind big companies in data security, not believing they might be targets. But 61 percent of the victims of breaches in 2016 were businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees, according to a Verizon survey. And experts say small companies are being targeted more because they don't have the sophisticated defenses that big corporations do.

Still, Equifax says its systems were breached after it failed to correctly install a software patch designed to eliminate a vulnerability. Applying patches as soon as they're available and watching for new ones are critical for a company to protect itself, experts say.

But many small business owners, sidetracked by other issues, don't pay enough attention, says Diana Burley, a George Washington University professor whose expertise is internet security. Many don't have staffers or vendors to monitor technology, and no plan to improve their security. Small businesses should not forget they can be harmed by cybercriminals in a variety of ways.