Cyber security workshop notes issues facing small businesses

Grand Valley faculty and owners of small businesses attended the Cyber Security Workshop on Dec. 4 in Grand Rapids, MI.

Kasey Garvelink

Grand Valley faculty and owners of small businesses attended the Cyber Security Workshop on Dec. 4 in Grand Rapids, MI.

Meghan McBrady

With the increasing presence of businesses online, protecting a company’s investments and customers has become a full-time commitment.

In order to educate and provide online support for small businesses, the Michigan Small Business Development Center (MI-SBDC) at Grand Valley State University conducted a cyber security workshop on Dec. 4.

Taking place at the L. William Seidman Center on the Pew Campus, the workshop, “Small Business, Big Threat” focused on the importance and issues within cyber security for small business owners and entrepreneurs. The workshop also emphasized what to look for and how to prevent cyber-attacks before they even happened.

John Hey, COO of Trivalent Group, Inc., led the workshop and panel discussion on Friday. He primarily focused on cyber security threats and how to safeguard against them.

“Security is not convenient,” Hey said. “A few years ago an eight-character password was considered rather strong, but now it’s just ‘ehh.’ Now we’re talking 16 to 25 characters, pass phrases and that’s not convenient. Who could even remember that?”

He said that even if all the steps within his presentation were implemented in a small business – such as buying and selling online, protecting company information and physical and mobile security – an individual could still be impacted by cyber threats.

Ultimately, the reason why cyber security has become such a big issue, he said, is because society continues to grow and diverge with increasing online presence.

“We are always connected. We don’t even listen to our music offline anymore,” Hey said. “There’s this constant reliance and integration with technology and with everything that we do with work and play – it really falls on usability and convenience of technology, which is not really secure.

“We do sacrifice security to make things more convenient and helps contribute to a 660 percent increase in cyber-attack activity within the last four years.”

Keith Brophy, the state director of the MI-SBDC, was part of the workshop’s panel. He emphasized that in order for small businesses to be protected, one must be aware of how global the problem is. Even if cyber-crime primarily targets the U.S., living in a world that is based on connectivity shows how one’s online purchases and social media accounts affects an individual’s personal and professional lives.

“We all live in a much more digital world today than we did five years ago,” Brophy said. “The opportunities are much greater for hackers, perpetrators of sites, as the sophistication of hackers have grown substantially. You could contribute much of the rise to this explosion of connectivity that continues to open doors and new sophisticated scams.”

In the end, to combat the threat of hacking and other cyber-related crimes it is recommended that one researches the situation and seek help and resources if needed.

“The SBDC has done a fantastic job of making resources available for small businesses, providing links to resources and fantastic tools,” Hey said. “Assess your situation by either doing it yourself or get help – knowing where you stand you can improve yourself and the situation.”

For more information about MI-SBDC and the services it provides, visit