Make your business cyber-safe

Recent news that hackers are targeting the retail industry to gain access to UK shoppers’ sensitive information is a warning bell for retailers to tighten up on their cyber-security. Global IT provider A&O IT One Solution’s chairman Rod Moore offers his tips on the best ways for indies to stay cyber-safe

Two-thirds of small businesses fell victim of cyber-crime during 2014/2015, according to the latest Federation of Small Business Cyber Resilience Report.

And so it is especially worrying that, in a recent survey by A&O IT One Solution, one-in-four owners (27 per cent) admitted they weren’t up-to-date on cyber-security measures that could defend them against digital attacks.

Don’t let the lack of a dedicated IT department make you a soft target. Review the data that your business holds to recognise which assets need additional protection, which employees or third parties can access it and identify whether data is adequately backed up. Consider encrypting any sensitive data or reducing network access to certain users, particularly when working remotely or using personal devices for work.

Rod Moore
Rod Moore

Stay secure through regular IT upgrades and anti-malware software updates. Our recent research indicated that more than a third (35 per cent) of SME owners weren’t keeping up-to-date with the latest IT regulations that could leave them vulnerable to hacking.

Train staff to understand the risks and their responsibilities when it comes to keeping the company secure. With a third of employees regularly accessing social media sites such as Facebook while at work and only half of SMEs (49 per cent) providing their team with internet and computer usage guidelines, education is key to limiting external threats.

Check you have the right level of technical support in place for your business needs. While 62 per cent of respondents admitted life would be easier if an IT engineer was located nearby or on site, it isn’t always possible for SMEs to employ a dedicated IT expert. Outsourcing to experts is a practical solution, ensuring the right controls are in place and a trusted expert is always available to resolve any issues.

'More than a third of SME owners aren’t keeping up-to-date with the latest IT regulations that could leave them vulnerable to hacking'

Run regular checks to test the effectiveness of your cyber-security procedures and manage any changes in risk levels to your organisation. Specialists such as A&O IT can help customers review their systems to ensure they’re always prepared against the ever-evolving cyber-risks.

Have a plan in place so everyday business can continue even if attacked. Where websites are designed to take payment, this might include having alternative procedures in place so that transactions can continue to be taken.

Report any cyber-attacks to the police via the Government’s Action Fraud website, so that criminal networks can be identified and brought to account. If any data has been compromised, it’s also important to notify any customers affected.

Issue all of your staff with written internet usage guidelines and ensure they acknowledge they have received and understood the contents.

The reality is that the innovations that have increased efficiencies across SMEs are the same ones that are making businesses vulnerable to commercial risks.

As cyber-crime continues to rise, and small businesses emerge as the most hacked sector, it’s vital that companies act now to protect themselves against attacks that could have a devastating impact on their bottom line.