How to keep your small business cyber-safe: What to watch out for


Cyber attacks have increased tenfold in the past three years according to the experts, and one in three small businesses still don’t have a plan of action if they were attacked. KPMG research showed that cyber security is now the third priority in most boardrooms, showing how seriously many companies are taking it.

We weren’t short of high-profile companies getting hacked and making the headlines in 2014. Before Christmas Sony Pictures was forced to withdraw the mainstream release of its film The Interview over a cyber-attack, and cinemas were effectively blackmailed into cancelling screenings. Retailer eBay also faced a backlash in May last year when it was accused of failing to alert customers to change their passwords quickly enough after a breach of security.

It’s not just big companies either.

Director of Data Mills, Andrew Mills, says many of his clients have experienced a cyber-attack, and that mistakes are easy to make.

“The Sheffield and District Law Society got an email from an unknown address, and thinking it was something set up by the previous member of staff, opened an attachment and downloaded a cryptolocker virus,” he says. “It brought in a cocktail of malicious viruses.”

Another client lost six years’ worth of data with a similar attack which held his files to ransom, despite a solid anti-virus protector and cyber-security plan.

Hacks can be extremely costly to any business, and they can hit a small business particularly hard. The 2013 Information Security Survey estimated that cyber-attacks can cost a small business up to 6% of their turnover, when the cost of protection is far less.

The cloud and mobile devices

“I would say probably [cyber attacks have increased] tenfold over the past few years,” says Neal Holley, director of Gatewest Media. “It may have gone from about one a week to around five a day.”

Neal and his team have developed a secure app called KnowGate, which allows the user to search through enterprise data on their own devices. “It’s giving small businesses the tools the big boys have had for years,” he says.

Many companies are focusing on a ‘bring your own device’ policy for employees using their phone or tablet to access company data on services such as Google Docs or Dropbox.

These technologies can compromise confidential data if not managed correctly, and small businesses should consider official advice and develop best-practice regulations to minimise risks.

Passwords

“Ensuring that passwords are a mixture of upper case, lower case, numbers and special characters and different for each program, is vital,” says Hazel Theocharous, a trainer for small businesses. “You would be amazed at how many owners have the same password for everything.”

Staff training

You would not expect staff training to prioritise cyber-security, but it is regularly forgotten entirely.

“Awareness is one of the most cost-effective tools,” says Neal. “That head-in-the-sand approach is one of the big risks of that.”

Training staff in exactly what a cyber-security risk is, and how it can affect them personally, through the government’s 10-step Cyber Essentials Programme is a good place to start.

Government help

The government recognises that cyber security is vital for businesses, and there are a number of schemes you can get involved in, including a cyber-security certificate to show you’re safe to your suppliers, and an Innovation Vouchers programme to get up to £5,000 funding for new security.

“It’s a good awareness programme from my perspective,” says Neal. “It’s easy to assume that everybody’s up to speed, that they’re not going to get caught, they’re just lucky and it won’t affect them.”

Don’t leave it until it’s too late – you could be next.

Related Articles

inspiration

8 Must watch TED talks for small business owners

Feeling a drop in motivation? TED talks never fail to fire us up. Here are some of our favourites......

Read More
lightbulb header image

Energy News 04/08/2017

Yes, the British Gas price hike is undoubtedly the story of the week, but it’s not all that’s been making ...

Read More
pylon header image

Will Energy Prices Ever Go Down?

British Gas has become the latest energy supplier to raise their prices, just weeks after the Government discu...

Read More
Excellent, 9.8 / 10

Arron Newton- Fantastic customer …

"Arron Newton- Fantastic customer service Arron Newton has been First Class with me when it came to helping us to get a great deal on our business electricity and gas. His advice has been invaluable and his contact details are now firmly saved on our business database. I would thoroughly recommend both Switchmybusiness.com and Arron , many Thanks Dave Jackson, The Catering Butcher -Stoke"

This review was posted by David Jackson on the 17th of August 2017

I spoke with Bhavni today who was very …

"I spoke with Bhavni today who was very helpful and friendly. The switch over from British Gas to Dual was so simple. I was given a template to send to British Gas to terminate the contract by email, all I had to do was fill in my account number. There really was no hassle! Thanks"

This review was posted by Will Halton on the 16th of August 2017

Very good service

"Very good service. Explanations from Arron Newton were clear and thorough, making the process easy and straightforward. I would certainly recommend Arron and this company. Excellent."

This review was posted by Dulik on the 16th of August 2017

Mark Weeks - Excellent Service

"Mark Weeks has helped me with selecting the most Competitive Electricity supplier for our Business needs. I would thoroughly recommend both Switchmybusiness.com and Mark Weeks, many Thanks"

This review was posted by Jason Davenport on the 16th of August 2017

All good as far as I can tell

"All good as far as I can tell. 24 hours from first enquiry to signed contract and a good deal as well. Mark Weeks made it all simple and was friendly and helpful. He even got a decent rate for my mum!"

This review was posted by Chris Gutsell on the 16th of August 2017