How to make your business cyber streetwise

The web has revolutionised the way we work and businesses of all shapes and sizes rely on it to keep their companies running effectively every day.

Yet along with huge trading opportunities for SMEs, there are risks and more businesses need to ensure they are protecting themselves from cyber criminals.

Cyber fraud can irreparably damage an SME’s reputation, which in turn can impact on its growth. At the moment, it appears that the issue of cyber security is also relatively low on the boardroom agenda, with over half of leaders saying that other matters always seem more urgent.

According to a government report released last year, 87 per cent of small firms surveyed suffered an online security breach in the previous 12 months, including data corruption and data loss as well as hacking and fraud. The worst of these breaches cost these small firms an average of £35-65k each. As well as this direct impact on infrastructure and finances, cyber fraud can result in reputational damage and lost custom, which also has a serious negative impact on the bottom line. Research shows that the vast majority of consumers and business buyers say they would avoid a small firm they knew had failed to protect itself from cyber crime. In addition more than three quarters of procurement managers at big businesses require smaller suppliers to prove their cyber security credentials before selecting them.

The majority of both consumers and industrial buyers at large companies tell us they expect all businesses to have a website these days and almost two thirds say they tend to choose companies that have a website over those that do not. Consumers also say that a well-designed, informative site gives them a sense of security about the business’ reliability, but that a poorly designed site damages their trust in the company. So while it is important to have a website and monitor it regularly, it is equally important to think about how your website looks to consumers to ensure your online presence reflects the quality of your real life offering.

While many larger companies can afford to designate a department to ensuring they are protected against instances of cyber crime, for most SMEs this responsibility often falls to the owner. Running a small business is an all consuming job so it’s understandable that a majority of leaders of these firms want to make online security a bigger priority, but say other things always seem more urgent.

“It is easy to get hung up on speculation about high-end threats and nasty, supposedly unblockable attacks on big business infrastructure’’ explains security expert James Lyne. ‘‘However, in reality the majority of cyber crime relies on both consumers and small businesses failing to do the basics well. Small firms who don’t employ basic security measures are making it easy for the attackers to silently install malicious code on the system without permission, meaning that high-end clever attacks aren’t typically required to succeed.’’

Although it can seem quite daunting and time consuming it can in fact be quick, easy and inexpensive to implement steps to keep a small businesses safe online, which can lead to a stronger and growing business. The following steps are some key behaviour changes you can make that will have a very positive impact on your business’ cyber security.

  • Installing and always updating antivirus and firewall software to protect your business and customer information
  • Using complex passwords for IT systems, computers and devices.
  • Ensuring you and your staff never download something if its origin is unknown.
  • Ensuring you and your staff delete suspicious emails before opening.
  • Reviewing what important information your business holds and whether it is adequately protected.
  • Improving cyber security is actually inexpensive, quick and easy for small companies, but business leaders must make it a priority and seek the advice and support they need to take control of their online lives.

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