Start-ups: Cyber security advice you need to hear


For most big businesses this problem can be met head on by enlisting and recruiting IT security experts and implementing software that safeguards them from attacks; investments which are often costly, making them unattainable for many start-up businesses.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to hear then that cyber attacks are becoming much more frequent. As the internet permeates almost every instance of our working lives, we’re entrusting it with more and more data, which only acts as a catalyst and a boon to hackers and cyber criminals around the world.

There is a common myth that hackers and cyber criminals only lay their cross hairs on larger businesses. But the fact is that no business, no matter how large or small, is safe from an attack. So what should start-ups do about cyber security without the mammoth budgets that their larger enterprise competitors wield?

Here, Focus Training looks at the most common threats and how they can be tackled to fledgling businesses.

Reduce human error

One of the most common causes of data breaches or other cyber-related attacks is human error. That could include an employee opening an email containing malware, visiting unsafe sites, or downloading programmes that aren’t safe for your system.

The key to combating this is to educate and inform. Don’t allow employees to download software to their computers without permissions. Warn against suspicious emails. Instil a more vigilant digital attitude in employees and you’ve done half the work towards protecting your business from a cyber attack.

Managing documents

Saving and storing files and documents on a computer is simple to do. Securing those files and documents is also just as simple, but so often overlooked. If one document contains sensitive materials ensure that it’s encrypted. Also use strong passwords to protect areas of your system that contain this sensitive data.

You can also use PDF software that will convert documents and encrypt them, meaning that the document can only be opened once a correct password has been entered. You should also assign manager rights ensuring that data and documents can only be viewed by someone a business owner has chosen.

These are just a couple of basic tips but more can be found on securing documents here.

Understand the Importance of data

The loot for many hackers and cyber criminals is often the data that your business holds. That data could include many things, from the email addresses of those who subscribe to your newsletter, to detailed bank information. A breach of either will impact your reputation. Obviously one will have a more severe impact than the other but the protection of both will be vital to all of your customers and should be at the forefront of your mind when implementing cyber security protection.

Be proactive

Many start-ups only realise the gravity of cyber crime threats after the damage is done. In some instances, it could be months before a business realises that they’ve fallen victim to an attack. Cyber criminals know this. They know that smaller businesses aren’t putting in place important security measures and that’s one of the reasons they go for the smaller fish.

So be proactive rather than reactive. Look to implement security measures from the outset rather than as a reactionary precaution to a small attack. It is easy on a tight budget to delegate time and resources elsewhere within your business but the threat of cyber crime is very real and could be very costly to a new organisation.

Health check your equipment

Smaller businesses often use outdated technology in an attempt to save money. The problem with older computers and laptops is that the software they run can sometimes be susceptible to viruses and much more vulnerable to an attack.

By conducting regular health checks of equipment used by yourself and your staff, you are better preparing against an attack in the future. These health checks can be conducted monthly to look for viruses that may have already infected your machine, check for software updates that will help keep it healthy and secure, or just a maintenance check up and cleaning of unused files and documents on the computer.

Choose better passwords

When choosing a new password there are a lot of businesses that recycle their old ones. Perhaps they use the same words and fix a number on the end or add a capital letter to the start? It’s this lack of imagination that makes breaking into a system or an account easy for hackers.

So forget the word ‘password’. Instead, think ‘passphrase’. The longer it is, the better too. Got a favourite song lyric? Maybe there’s a motto you love? A phrase is often much harder to guess than a word.

The more imaginative the password, the better.

How is the UK Government Tackling Cyber Crime?

With cyber crime on a continuous rise many people are looking to the government and asking:

‘What’s being done?’

Last November, the then chancellor Phillip Hammond announced a five-year £1.9 billion scheme designed to help prevent cyber crimes in the UK. This money is to be invested in bolstering defences and arming the public and workers with “better cyber skills”. As we touched on earlier, the most effective way to prevent cyber crime is to train and help make people more aware of the various threats they face online.

Armed with a basic understanding, most businesses and individuals can avoid the most common cyber attacks out there.

Alan Blaney, Owner of Focus Training.