Will SME Data Breaches Ever Slow Down?

Breaches & LeaksCorporate Security

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Not long ago, many small and medium enterprises (SMEs) operated under the assumption that they were too small to attract the attention of cybercriminals. Consequently, cybersecurity measures were often overlooked or deemed unnecessary. 

Fast forward to today, and the landscape has dramatically changed. As larger enterprises bolstered their cybersecurity defenses, cybercriminals shifted their focus towards easier targets.  SMEs no longer fly under the radar but are instead increasingly finding themselves in the crosshairs of cyberattacks, facing consequences that can threaten their existence. 

In this article, we share statistics on the growth of SME data breaches, look at the underlying causes of this surge, and offer strategies that SMEs can take to reduce their risk.

The Rising Tide of SME Data Breaches

Recent statistics paint a sobering picture of the cybersecurity landscape for SMEs. There is a steady uptick in SME data breaches year over year, with no signs of slowing any time soon. Not only is the frequency of SME data breaches alarming, but the repercussions are also severe, with many SMEs at risk of going out of business entirely if they fall victim to a breach.

  • 46% of all data breaches impact businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees.
  • 95% of cybersecurity incidents at SMEs cost between $826 and $653,587.
  • 51% of small businesses have no cybersecurity measures in place at all.
  • 83% of SMEs in the US are not financially prepared to recover from a cyberattack
  • 60% of SMEs go out of business within 6 months of falling victim to a data breach.

SMEs no longer fly under the radar but are instead increasingly finding themselves in the crosshairs of cyberattacks, facing significant consequences that can threaten their existence.

The Root Causes

Understanding the underlying reasons for the growth in SME data breaches can help shape future strategies and decisions. Here, we cover factors that have played a role in the escalation of data breaches among SMEs.

Perceived Vulnerability: Cybercriminals may perceive SMEs as easier targets than larger enterprises due to their potentially weaker cybersecurity defenses and limited resources dedicated to security.

Cybersecurity is not a Priority: Cybersecurity is often deprioritized in favor of other pressing business needs. As a result, many SMEs operate with inadequate security measures in place, leaving them vulnerable to attacks. 

Expanding Attack Surface: As SMEs embrace digital transformation, engage more extensively online, and adopt more advanced technologies, their attack surface grows, and they become increasingly vulnerable.

Valuable Data: SMEs often collect and store valuable information such as customer data, financial records, and intellectual property that cybercriminals look to exploit for financial gain.

Supply Chain Attacks: SMEs are often seen as entry points into larger organizations. Cybercriminals recognize that compromising a smaller vendor or partner can provide access to larger networks.

Sophisticated Cyber Threats: Cybercriminals are becoming smarter each day. They employ increasingly advanced tactics and techniques to breach organizational defenses and exploit vulnerabilities. This growing complexity of threats makes it even harder for SMBs to protect themselves.

A Path Forward: Reducing SME Data Breaches

It’s unlikely that we will see a decrease in data breaches involving SMEs anytime soon. That said, SMEs are not helpless in the face of this threat. Below, we cover strategies that SMEs can take to reduce the likelihood of falling victim to data breaches. 

Make Cybersecurity a Business Priority: The first step for any SME is to ensure cybersecurity is seen as a critical business concern that affects every aspect of the organization. Leadership should foster a culture where cybersecurity is integrated into strategic planning and decision-making processes. Prioritizing cybersecurity will help SMEs strengthen their security posture and ultimately ensure the long-term resilience and success of their business operations.

Outsourcing to Managed Service Providers (MSPs): SMEs can leverage the expertise and resources of MSPs to access cybersecurity solutions that they cannot implement in-house. MSPs can provide tailored security strategies based on the SME’s specific needs and industry regulations, helping to strengthen overall defenses against data breaches.

Multi-Layered Security: While many SMEs have begun implementing cybersecurity basics such as firewalls and endpoint protections, these measures alone are insufficient. In today’s world, a significant amount of business happens outside of traditional network boundaries, and security coverage needs to account for that. A good option for SMEs is to use Media Sonar’s Digital Risk Assessments. These are an easy way to add an extra layer of security and can help SMEs take action against exposures and potential data breaches.

At the end of the day, the organizations that are most at risk are those that do not take the steps to protect themselves – regardless of size or industry.

Employee Training and Awareness: Human error is a leading cause of data breaches. Regular employee training sessions on cybersecurity best practices, phishing awareness, data handling protocols, and the potential consequences of security lapses can significantly reduce the risk of breaches. 

Regular Updates and Patch Management: Keeping software, applications, and systems up-to-date with the latest security patches is crucial for mitigating vulnerabilities. Establishing a robust patch management process ensures that security vulnerabilities are addressed promptly, reducing the risk of exploitation and data breaches.

Incident Response Planning: Despite best efforts, breaches may still occur. Having a well-defined incident response plan in place enables organizations to respond swiftly and effectively in the event of a data breach. This plan should outline roles and responsibilities, communication protocols, containment procedures, and steps for recovery and remediation. 


While achieving a world entirely free from data breaches may remain an elusive goal, there are options for SMEs to lessen the likelihood of experiencing a breach. By prioritizing cybersecurity and taking a multi-layer approach, SMEs can reduce their risk, avoid costly incidents,  preserve their reputation, and continue to grow their business. At the end of the day, the organizations that are most at risk are those that do not take the steps to protect themselves – regardless of size or industry. 

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