Guest article by Damon Culbert of Cyber Security Jobs
Cyber criminals are a part of modern life, from Uber account hacks to major business data breaches, our online identities are rarely safe. And, while big-name companies under threat often make the news, it’s small and medium-sized enterprises who are actually their biggest targets.
Large businesses and government departments may seem like more obvious hacking targets with bigger payoffs, but these organisations can afford much more robust, well-kept and successful IT security measures and cyber security professionals working round the clock. Due to this, cyber criminals are much more likely to swing for easy targets like family businesses.
With the introduction of GDPR across Europe, all businesses are now much more responsible for the personal data they keep, meaning companies of all size can’t really afford to not have at least the basic security measures in place. The UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) have created a list of five principles as part of their Cyber Essentials Scheme. These include:
1. Secure your internet connection
2. Protect from viruses and other malware
3. Control access to your data and services
4. Secure your devices and software
5. Keep your devices and software up to date
All small businesses should know these principles and be putting them into practice, no matter how many staff they employ. In addition to this, here are a couple of other tips to keep hackers at bay which can be simply implemented into your business practices and keep the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) from the door.
Invest in Software and Hardware
While just functioning from day to day might be your only priority as a small business owner, investing in your technology will undoubtedly help in the long run. Keeping your software, such as virus software and operation systems, will ensure that any vulnerabilities identified by the creators are covered and there are no gaping holes in your cyber defences.
It might also be a good idea to invest in a good-quality back-up server and cyber insurance, so that if any personal data is every compromised, your operations can simply switch to the back-up server without affecting your business. Cyber insurance will also help keep you covered in case any clients’ personal data is lost and costs are incurred.
Staff Awareness Without the awareness of your staff, no manner of cyber security measures will keep your business safe. 90% of breaches happen because of user interaction, most commonly through phishing scams. Sophisticated phishers can impersonate senior members of staff in your organisation and trick other employees into handing over login details, authorising bogus payments or redirecting bank transfers.
Ensuring that staff are made aware of how to identify phishing scams and even having experienced trainers come in to guide them through cyber security best practice may seem like a cost you can spare but will go far in keeping the walls around your business impenetrable.
The GDPR states that businesses who suffer a breach must alert the ICO and any customers who may have been affected within 72 hours of discovery. This is vital, and although fines could still be handed out for failure to prevent a breach, these fines will be much higher if the ICO discovers that you kept the information to yourself for longer than the 72 hour period.
The average time it takes for an organisation to discover a breach is 229 days, so the actual time it takes for the breach to come to your attention isn’t going to work too poorly in your favour. However, regular reporting is likely to result in earlier identification which will not only help you save time and money, but will also be a great trust signal to your clients that you take protecting their data seriously.
Security breaches are a ‘when’ not ‘if’ problem, so planning ahead is a necessity of modern business. 74% of SMEs don’t have any money saved to deal with an attack and 40% wouldn’t even know who to contact in the event of a breach. Having comprehensive disaster management plans in place will help keep you and your clients safe, keep your reputation in top shape and make sure you don’t have to pay out major money in the worst case scenario.
Plan of Action
The best thing for SMEs to do is to start small and keep building their defences as time goes on, helping keep costs down and customers happy. Here’s a plan of action to get started:
1. Start with the basics: follow the Cyber Essentials Scheme and bake these principles into your daily operations
2. Get an understanding of the risks to your business: check out the NCSC’s ’10 Steps to Cyber Security’ for further detail than the Cyber Essentials
3. Know your business: if you still feel your data isn’t safe, research more comprehensive frameworks like the IASME standard developed for small businesses
4. Once you have a complete security framework in place, develop on the NCSC’s advice with more sophisticated frameworks, such as the NIST framework for cybersecurity.