Why every UK business should consider cyber security in 2018
Running a business in the digital age offers many opportunities and new and exciting ways of doing business. However, this also comes with the very real risk of data leaks and other potentially damaging cyber attacks. Here is why you need to take a closer look at your cyber security protocols and some easy best practices to kick-start this process for even the smallest of businesses.
As our business operations move increasingly online, the importance of ensuring your business has adequate cyber security procedures in place, likewise gains more and more prominence. With GDPR recently coming into effect and changing the way businesses are required to handle customer information, data and cyber security are hot topics of conversation at the moment, and with good reason. Cyber attacks cost the UK economy billions of pounds every year and HM Government figures show that a quarter of companies have reported some form of cyber security breach over the last 12 months alone.
But what exactly is cyber security, why is it so important, and how can you ensure your business is positioned to withstand an attempted cyber attack?
What is cyber security?
Cyber security is a range of processes, control, and protocols put in place to ensure your digital equipment, systems, and networks are resistant to the threat of cyber attacks. A cyber attack will usually be done with the aim of stealing data, to gain access to your system, or otherwise infect your company’s computers and other digital equipment with malicious software. This can be done through a variety of means such as a password attack, phishing scams, and malware.
Cyber attacks can be devastating to your business, leading not only to a loss of data and fines for non-compliance of data handling laws, but also a loss of reputation which can be even more costly to your company. In the most serious of cases, poor data security can result in the company failing and being forced into closure. With cyber security being headline news, customers are more aware of data security than ever and they need to know they can trust your business to handle their information in a competent, safe, and trustworthy manner.
Cyber security for small businesses
Over recent years we have witnessed many huge companies fall victim to a major security breach or other forms of cyber attacks, resulting in masses of confidential customer information being leaked. Due to this you may be forgiven for thinking that it is only large companies who are at risk, however, the reality is that every business, regardless of its size, is susceptible to cyber attacks and unfortunately it is this attitude of complacency exhibited by some small businesses makes them a prime target for fraudsters and hackers.
A small business will be holding much more sensitive information than would be found on an individual consumer’s computer, and the security protocols in place in SMEs are typically less robust than those that would be found at a major corporation. This abundance of potentially useful information coupled with lax security process, are irresistible for fraudsters. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you are under cyber criminals’ radar just because your business is not a household name.
Put simply, if you use a computer, laptop, tablet, or other internet enabled device in the course of your business activities, you should be aware of the potential threats and be vigilant against protecting the data you hold.
How to improve your cyber security practices
Protecting your business doesn’t have to be a daunting or a costly task. Implementing basic security measures which can sometimes be overlooked, can make a world of difference to how secure you are against hackers and often these come at no financial cost.
Simple things such as ensuring you and your employees are using strong passwords, which include a combination of number, upper and lowercase letters, and special characters, which are changed on a regular basis, can go a long way to securing your company’s digital arm. Other easy to implement best practices for bolstering your cyber security include:
- Protecting your company from viruses and malware can be strengthened through the purchase of software, however, it is important to get back to basics and ensure you have activated firewalls on your hardware, and educated your staff on the dangers of spam email and the prevalence of phishing scams. Any links on emails should only be opened unless you trust the recipient and are expecting the link or attached document. If any of these do not apply, tread very carefully. Being aware of the dangers and making sure everyone is on their guard is key to creating a safe online environment for your data.
- Review the individuals who have access to sensitive information. Do they all need to be privy to this? If not remove any individuals who do not need access to this data, and delete any users who have left the company but still remain on the system. Limiting access to sensitive data helps limit your risk of a data breach or leak.
- Hammer home the importance of keeping company property and data safe should it be taken out of the workplace. Items such as laptops, tablets, phones, and removable memory sticks can contain reams of data which could be abused if it should fall into the wrong hands. Be particularly vigilant on trains, in coffee shops, or any other public space you may be working in. Consider investing in a privacy filter which slides in front of your screen and obscures the display for onlookers.
Once these steps have been taken, don’t rest of your laurels. Effective cyber security relies on ongoing checks and audits of your systems, and taking advantage of regular updates to your software and operating system. Instilling a culture of security in your business can help make these processes second nature and ensure your business, and your customers, are protected as best as possible from any attempted attack.