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Perspectives

Cybersecurity. Your five-step crash course

Needing to worry about cybersecurity is a pretty new business task. Even the word itself can sound weird and futuristic – but the plain fact is that online attacks are now a very real threat to all businesses, large and small. So, what type of dangers are out there? And which are the ones you’re genuinely at risk of, as opposed to those that just make good headlines? And, most importantly, how can you protect yourself and your business? Try this:
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Cybersecurity is important for any size of business

1. Protect against malware and viruses

Educate yourself, and your employees, against being tricked into downloading malware (which is essentially bad software) or viruses that can wreck your computer systems and/or steal all of your data. Often the download appears to come from a completely legitimate source that you use frequently. Although you could invest in good antivirus software (the market leader is Norton), the most important way, by far, to protect your business against these kinds of attacks, is by educating yourself and your employees. Make sure you update your cybersecurity knowledge regularly, as the scamming landscape is always changing.

2. Backup your data

It sounds extreme, but people really do get all their data corrupted or stolen (see above) and then are blackmailed to get it back. Companies have been known to pay thousands to cyber criminals to release data that’s critical to running their business. Make sure you backup all your data regularly and hold it remotely (on a USB stick, separate hard drive, or in the Cloud), so even if you are attacked, you’ll be less open to being held to ransom. And besides, it’s the smart thing to do, as if you lost all your key data in say a flood or a fire, it could destroy your business.

3. Guard your mobile devices

Often we forget that our humble mobile phone is a powerful computer that holds sensitive data. Ensure you keep your phone password-protected and have its tracking turned on in case of loss or theft. Update any software and apps promptly, so you get the patches that are regularly provided to amend potential security breaches. And, finally, be careful which Wi-Fi hotspots you jump on to – if possible always use your own 3G or 4G mobile hotspot, which you know will be secure.

4. Beware of phishing attacks

Phishing is when fake emails are sent to thousands of people asking for secure data, such as bank information or making requests for payments. These emails are becoming more and more sophisticated, and often cyber criminals hack email accounts of reputable contacts such as accountants and HMRC, asking for moneys owed to be sent to a new location. The golden rules are to never impart sensitive information on email, and always to verify, by voice call, any requests for money or change of payment details. Sadly, in this area it’s safest to suspect everyone and trust no-one, so make sure your employees know that too. And if you do get scammed, try not to blame yourself. It happens to the best of us.

5. Be smart about your passwords

We all know that this is another of life’s major headaches – how to make passwords secure, how to remember them when there are so many, and how often to change them. There’s no easy answer, but consider a Password Manager as one possible solution. Dashlane, LastPass and 1Password are just some of the many options available. And whatever you do, steer clear of the password “password”.