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Are you prepared for a cyber-attack?

In an article in The Guardian, Toni Allen, UK head of client propositions at the British Standards Institute said that ‘the latest Government Security Breaches survey found that nearly three-quarters (74%) of small organisations reported a security breach in the last year; an increase on the 2013 and 2014 survey. SMEs are now being pinpointed by digital attackers’. This is a worrying statistic and one that demonstrates a long way to show how crucial it is for all businesses, and specifically SMEs to be prepared for a cyber attack. This article will discuss some of the ways you should consider protecting your business.

Protect your computers

This may seem obvious, but is one of the key ways you could be the victim of data theft. There are obviously simple ways to protect your hardware; lock it up, and lock the screen, as well as leaving it in a secure location whenever you’re out of a room – never leave it in a car! Keep a record of your computer, including its make, model and serial number, so that you can report it to the police and insurance company. Bearing in mind, that less than 10% of computers are recovered after theft, so you really want to make sure it isn’t stolen in the first place. This also applies to any mobile phones containing sensitive data.

Encrypt data

Encrypting data in the workplace is crucial. Encryption turns your data into a code, which only you have the password to translate back into your files. Encryption allows you to transport personal information via secure communication paths such as a VPN or an encrypted email, which may be useful if you are a business dealing with people’s personal data. There are different types of encryption and which ones you use will depend on what operating systems you use.

Know how to deal with malware

Malware, which includes viruses, spyware, worms and adware, is dangerous. It works in different ways; they might spy on your computer and collect sensitive data (spyware), or in more obvious ways, shutting down your computer altogether. The most important thing is that you know how to recognise a problem and deal with it: keep your security systems up to date, run regular scans on software and know the signs of malware (slow performance, random error messages, more pop-up adverts, any changes to your computer that you did not facilitate). You will also need to understand firewalls, which basically act as a barrier between your computer and any malware. There are two types of firewall: Hardware (network) firewall and Personal (software) firewalls – you are most protected when both of these are turned on. It might be worth investing in a router that provides firewalls for your whole business network. Another thing to consider is a security patch, which can be provided by your computer’s manufacturer, and is usually free. They work to make sure your anti-virus software is up to date; to ensure you do not miss any of these, check your computer manufacturers website often and make sure all anti-virus software is programmed to auto update.

Educate your employees

In order for your entire business to be safe from a cyber attack, everyone must be on the same page. Set tech rules for your employees, including:

  • Always using a strong password (at least 12 characters, and nothing too obvious), and writing them down somewhere secure.
  • Never open or follow anything suspicious and know how to use your company’s spam filters, this could help avoid malware.
  • Which websites they can visit and which programs are considered safe.
  • Make sure all employees know how and where to back up their work, doing so regularly.

Obviously there are hundreds more measures you can take to protect your company from a cyber attack, but these are a few key ones that are well worth considering. Take care to ensure these measures are implemented across the whole of your company, as any slip ups could prove disastrous for your data and business.

Does an increase in cyber attacks on SMEs concern you? Tweet us @kingstonsmith and join the conversation!