Never underestimate the importance of cyber security

In the ever increasing digital world, it's vital all SMEs tackle the threat of cyber criminals head-on and become cyber-secure.

Never underestimate the importance of cyber security

In the ever increasing digital world, it’s vital all SMEs tackle the threat of cyber criminals head-on and become cyber-secure.

Long before the world had even heard of the words ‘COVID-19’, companies had already moved large parts of their daily business online. Large enterprises, medium-sized ones, and many much smaller outfits, all understood the benefits of using cyberspace for conducting business. Then along came Coronavirus and the world of business was forced to act swiftly.

With more and more people suddenly working from home, to limit unnecessary travel, many more transactions were being carried out online. Face to face meetings were largely scrapped, and moved onto Zoom or some other social media platform, while high street shops witnessed a frightening reduction in footfall – when permitted to open. Most things changed in an instant, with more and more interaction taking place via laptops and mobile phones.

And while this may have been good news for nature and the environment, it is also a situation which hugely enhances the ‘work’ of cyber criminals. Most large multi-nationals have the money and expertise to invest in huge IT systems capable of repelling these unwanted intruders, but cyber security can be more of a challenge for some SMEs.

Take a peek at these statistics:

  • Every day there are approximately 65,000 attempts to hack small to medium-sized businesses in the UK.
  • Around 4,500 of these find their target, which means 1.6m SMEs fall victim to cybercrime every year.
  • And, according to Hiscox, one small UK business is successfully hacked every 19 seconds.

Armed with this worrying data, it’s not surprising that SMEs are searching for ways to improve cyber security. And these cyber criminals are seeking many different types of private information, from a company’s business contacts to the personal details of their employees.

Companies have a responsibility to safeguard their systems and The UK Domain, which specialise in small business advice and .UK domain names, has published a helpful guide on the topic to help SMEs overcome this persistent problem.

There are many different types of threat:

1: Malware – Malicious software designed to cause damage to a computer, server, client or computer network. A virus is a type of malware which replicates itself by modifying computer programmes and inserting its own code. Viruses attach themselves to files and then infect other clean files. They spread quickly and can corrupt or delete these files. Malware often gains access to a system when an unsuspecting user clicks on a link.

2: Phishing – These are scams which obtain sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details. They get entry to a network typically via an email or texted message.

3: Ransomware – As its name suggests, these infect computers and hold large chunks of data to ransom, often demanding significant amounts of money for their release. These programmes typically gain access via phishing emails or infected attachments which employees unwittingly click into. Ransomware costs UK businesses over £340m per year, and it is believed that around half of those companies attacked, still struggle to recover their files even after paying the ransom. Companies who suffer from such attacks often discover they are unable to access files while some documents may suddenly develop new and weird extensions, such as ‘.ezz’.

4: Hacking – This is when criminals obtain unauthorised access to your computer, and are able to manipulate information within it. This is the method used by those blamed for creating ‘fake news’ over the past few years.

Protecting your business

A: Secure your wireless networks. Criminals are experts at exploiting security weaknesses in wireless networks.

B: Control access. Make certain only the appropriate personnel within your company have access to personal and sensitive information. Data should only be available on a need-to-know basis.

C: Train employees. When it comes to SME cyber security, it’s important that your staff understand how to identify potential threats. The best way to do this is to train them, so they know what is suspicious and what is not.

D: Create strong passwords and keep them secure. Passwords are an integral part of everyday life, keeping personal and financial information safe and secure. So don’t use the same password twice and ensure you’re storing login credentials and details somewhere secure, such as an online password manager.

E: Back up your data. If you suffer from a cyber-attack, it is possible you could potentially lose all of the data on your system. This would be catastrophic for any individual or business. So back up regularly. Depending on the amount of information – as well as the importance of it – which enters your system, you may need to back it up on a daily basis, and perhaps even two or three times every day.

The content provided in this feature is only a small slice of what is required to combat the threat of cyber criminals.

For more information on this topic, you can read the full guide from The UK Domain to discover the best way of safeguarding your business against online attacks, plus download a handy checklist too.


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