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Cyber Security Article for BT Business website

Brief: Research and write a cyber security article aimed at small businesses in the UK with a focus on the new agile ways people are working and the issues this creates.

Work anywhere, protect everything

Whether you call it agile working, remote working or flexible working, it’s changed the game for small and medium businesses. But having the freedom to work remotely, whenever and wherever you have a connection, doesn’t come without its risks. Perhaps the biggest challenge is cyber security and keeping your data secure. This might be an even bigger deal than you think.

When it comes to data protection, it’s the big businesses who normally make the headlines. So it’s easy to assume that large corporations and multinationals are the only targets for hackers. And research by KPMG highlights that assumption: less than a quarter of small businesses it spoke to say cyber security is a top concern.

The reality, though, is that every business is at risk. From sole traders to larger SMEs. Two in every three small firms that the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) spoke to said they’d been a victim of cyber crime. And of those, many have experienced, on average, four attacks.

When you consider the impact a cyber attack can have, small and medium businesses are often left worse off than their corporate counterparts. That same FSB report puts the cost of those attacks at £3,000 each, setting SMEs back by more than two days. On top of this, the businesses KPMG surveyed said cyber attacks affected their ability to win new work, lost them customers, and damaged their brand.

 

So what makes SMEs such a big target? Part of the answer is the way we work

Remote working – an opportunity or vulnerability?

Flexible work arrangements are an easy win for SMEs who’re looking to attract talented people and be more productive. In fact, by 2020, around 70% of businesses will embrace remote working. And the tech’s there to support it. It’s rare you’ll find a public space without a wi-fi network.

Cloud-based business software means anyone can get to work from anywhere. But when it comes to staying secure when offering flexible working arrangements, that’s where things can unravel.

For remote-working SMEs, there’s room for improvement

According to research by Ovum, many SMEs still overestimate the online protection they already have. From relying on consumer-level solutions, using personal tablets and laptops with little-or-no virus protection software, to not getting things like regular data backups in place.

Jan Jordyn, founder of mypersonalisedstorybook.com, recently invested in business-level security software. But before that, she admits she didn’t take it seriously: “I saw the ads so often I became blind to them and clicked them off automatically, never really giving the security aspect of my business a second thought.”

And Chris Harrison, an IT expert who works with small businesses, sees the impact of not having the right cyber security software in place every week. “Once or twice a week, I meet a panicked business owner who runs their entire operation on their laptop with zero back up,” he says. “They sometimes lose everything.”

 

So how do we keep SMEs’ data safe as they embrace the golden age of remote working?

Buy for business

Buying business-grade data protection software might feel like an unnecessary expense, but consider this: in 2017 alone, Symantec  discovered 669 million new types of Malware. With new threats appearing every day, having up-to-date software that knows about them is vital. Whether it’s computer backup software or firewall protection, business-grade options often come with things like 24/7 tech support and regular automatic updates. Consumer-level software might not.

How to stay secure in the cloud

Cloud-based software lets SMEs do amazing things. But before you sign up for a service, there are a few things you should always check. What does their data security policy look like? Do they encrypt your information? Do they keep a backup? Do they offer two-factor authentication (where you enter a time-sensitive code as well as a password to log in)? Do your research before you dive in.

How to keep your privacy on public wi-fi

You can find free wi-fi almost anywhere these days. It’s great for jumping online and catching up on work. But it’s also an opportunity for criminals to snoop on every website you visit. That’s a particular problem if you use the internet for things like remote file access. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help here. It encrypts any data you send or receive. So even if a criminal were to take a look, they wouldn’t be able to decipher it.

Tackle cyber security head on

Research tells us that cyber security is a big risk for SMEs and the impact of an attack can be huge. So it’s time to tackle it head on. Review your data and IT security policy, make sure you’re setting strong passwords, and understanding the hallmarks of a scam. Backed by the right security software, you can keep your business safe from internet security threats, get peace of mind and take full advantage of today’s tech.

For more practical advice and products that can help your business stay protected, take a look here

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