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Cyberattacks threaten Main Street’s bottom line but Congress can make a difference

The coffee you bought from your neighborhood barista. The handmade table you purchased online from a craftsman in New England. The new haircut you got from your local beauty salon.

It’s likely that these purchases were made with your credit card. But what happens to your personal data after the purchase and how is it protected? Large retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart have considerable resources to protect consumer data – large IT departments, hefty investments in advanced technology and staff working around the clock to monitor sensitive information and guard against intrusions.  But this is not usually the case for America’s mom and pop shops, despite the fact that they’re facing more cyberattacks than ever before.

{mosads}Cyber vulnerability is a constant fear in today’s Internet age, but it’s increasingly concerning for small businesses that are the target of three out of every five cyberattacks. With America’s 28 million small businesses making up 54 percent of annual sales in the U.S., the frequency of such attacks and the high costs they create for small businesses could have ripple effects throughout our economy.  

That’s why we recently introduced the Improving Small Business Cyber Security Act to help American entrepreneurs protect themselves from cybercrimes and develop cybersecurity plans that meet their business’ needs. Hackers often look upon small businesses as easier targets because many lack adequate protections to avoid intrusions and also don’t have plans of action for how to respond to or recover from an attack.

A recent report by the Internet security firm McAfee found that 90 percent of small- to medium-sized businesses need support to better protect customer information. A separate study determined that 83 percent of small businesses do not have an established cyber security plan.

Our bill would cost nothing and address these issues by streamlining existing cyber support for small businesses. It would:

Leverage the expertise of the more than 900 Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) around the country to support small businesses in developing affordable cyber security plans and enhancing their cyber infrastructure.

Authorize SBDCs to offer cyber support to small businesses in accordance with a SBDC Cyber Strategy, which is to be developed jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and the Small Business Administration.

Provide SBDCs with the resources, tools, and guidance they need to integrate existing cyber support services into their programs and better meet the 21st century needs of small businesses that have been turning to them for assistance for more than 30 years.

Small Businesses are engines of growth and innovation that employ our neighbors and friends and serve our communities with an incomparable level of customer service.  They account for nearly 50 percent of private-sector employment and are responsible for more than 45 percent of private-sector economic output. Cyberattacks hit at the core of this foundation. The National Cyber Security Alliance has estimated that 60 percent of small businesses hit by cyberattacks end up going out of business within 6 months.

This legislation makes sense. It’s fiscally responsible, leveraging and delivering existing cyber support structures in new and innovative ways to ensure that federal resources actually reach small businesses. It is imperative that we act now to empower our SBDCs with the resources necessary to help combat the attacks we see happening daily in our small business community. We can’t wait for another attack before we start working to adequately protect ourselves.

Rep. Hanna has served as  U.S. Representative from New York since 2011  and Rep. Kilmer is the U.S. Representative for Washington’s 6th congressional district since 2013


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