SMEs are a key target for cyber criminals and a cyber attack can cause huge financial and reputational damage for a small business. But, many small businesses don’t consider cyber crime a risk, because they don’t sell online or don’t believe they have anything worth stealing. In fact, cyber crime is not all about cash – cyber criminals can benefit from stealing your intellectual property, customer data and even email addresses from your address book.
It’s not as scary as it sounds. Small adjustments can deliver major improvements to your business’ online security. By investing a little time into making your business secure, you can boost your reputation, improve your customer service, become more productive and gain an advantage over competitors. Research by Cyber Streetwise found that 82 per cent of consumers would buy more from small firms online if they could show they were protected from cyber crime.
If you don’t know where to start when it comes to boosting your cyber security, here are some top tips.
- Keep software secure – Don’t ignore those messages asking you to update your software! They exist to keep you as secure as possible and to close any holes where hackers may find a way in.
- Use complex passwords – Weak passwords leave your business open to fraud, theft and extortion. Using a strong password is a quick and easy way to give your cyber security a boost. Stay away from common passwords such as pet names and dates of birth and instead use a password made up of three words or more, upper and lower case letters, symbols and numbers.
- Have anti–virus – Installing anti-virus software and keeping it up to date is another layer of the cyber security net that will help keep the criminals at bay. Make sure you’re using your software correctly and to its full potential.
- Train your staff – Your staff are the best line of defence against cyber crime. The most common problems faced by businesses include staff exposing IT systems to malware by plugging in external devices and USB sticks, opening infected emails or using unsafe websites with malicious code. Make your team aware of the dos and don’ts and help them understand how a cyber attack could affect them and the business.
- Take the test – There is a free online course available for small businesses on the Cyber Streetwise website. Check that your business can answer every security question positively.
- Get a badge – Cyber Essentials is an easy to use, cost-effective way to help businesses and the public sector protect themselves against the risks of operating online. The government-endorsed and industry-supported scheme provides businesses with clarity on good basic cyber security practice and the key technical controls required to achieve this. Certification demonstrates that you have taken steps to be cyber safe – reassuring customers, while boosting the confidence and profitability for your firm.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that only big corporations and governments are at risk from cyber criminals. The changes outlined in this article allow you to get on with running your business, safe in the knowledge that you and your customers are protected against the wrath of the hackers.
Emma Philpott is the CEO of the IASME Consortium, a company that promotes cyber security within small companies and assesses them against the Government’s Cyber Essentials and IASME’s own governance standard. Emma is also Founder and Manager of the Malvern Cyber Security Cluster and the UK Cyber Security Forum, a network of more than 250 small companies working in cyber security.