How effective cyber security can protect your business

This is a guest post by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.

Cyber security is a huge issue for modern businesses. Without effective measures set in place, a business can end up falling apart as a result of being hacked.

While the threat is definitely present, it can be effectively countered if the right steps are taken.

Identify your threats

At the very beginning of your security process, you should identify all possible threats to your business. It’s important to look outside of your business and be well informed on the latest cyber threats.

Keeping yourself in this frame of mind will keep you alert and aware as to any potential issues affecting your business. You may even spot a security breach before it becomes irreversible.

The next step is to figure out how secure your current systems are. The best way to do this is to implement a cyber security audit, which will detail how secure you currently are, alongside any specific threats to your business.

The data pulled from this audit is invaluable to understanding your next moves. You may not be updating your software as often as you should, or your smartphones and tablets may be being neglected in your current process.

While software updates are essential, it’s also important to focus on the people within the business. Your employees play an important part in your security measures.Raising awareness around particular security issues, and implementing effective password policies, can make all the difference in ensuring your business is secured.

It’s also worth taking note of any potential damage purposefully caused by an employee. Those who use their own devices or even abuse their privileges can cause substantial damage to your business. While you don’t want to adopt a paranoid stance when it comes to your employees, it’s worth making sure all bases are covered.

Make it a priority

Don’t make the mistake of thinking because you’ve implemented a security audit and covered all bases that you’re all set to go. One of the most important steps to take is ensuring security becomes an absolute priority.

Do this by communicating to every member of your establishment what your new risk management policy is, and make it as clear as possible so there’s no ambiguity, keeping everyone on the same page.

It’s your duty to communicate your policy effectively with everyone involved. As explained in the previous section, your employees are an integral part of your security. If there are some who are left in the dark, or those not willing to comply, these need to be addressed before anything goes forward.

Creating a security conscious culture through training and awareness programmes can be extremely beneficial in helping everyone’s understanding, and in maintaining your risk assessment policy.

Whenever we create an online account we’re usually greeted with a reminder not to create simple, easy to guess passwords. Your business would benefit greatly from that advice.

All devices should be encrypted, and these too should have strong passwords. 2-factor authentication should be implemented wherever possible, and employees should be discouraged from using easily predictable passwords.

Any security measures you implement should be thoroughly tested and understood – this way, you’ll be able to spot any unusual activity and take steps to correct it before it gets worse.

Use existing schemes

The question now is how exactly do you go about doing all this?

For those unsure of where to start, you can find a lot of resources online – cyber security training and certified courses can help you on your way. The Cyber Essentials scheme (which is government-backed) contains 5 controls which are known to prevent up to 80% of all cyber-attacks. The online self-help guide is designed to help secure your devices, your internet and your data, and protect against viruses and malware.

All in all, there’s a wealth of resources online for you and your employees to pull from – it would be a waste to ignore it all.

Assume an attack will happen

Even after going through the potential issues, responding with a security audit and putting the correct measures in place, the best thing you can do is assume the worst.

One of the worst things you can do is waiting for evidence. Instead of assuming your company is safe until a threat presents itself, assuming you will eventually be hacked will put you in a better position.

It’s important to have a plan for any potential downfalls – downtime where the business rebuilds, backing up systems, and your customer’s data being breached, to name a few. While the actual outcome might not be as bad as the one you’re preparing for, in most situations its better being over-prepared than under.

While we hope nothing ever happens to your business, it’s never one hundred percent off the table. Every business is just as likely to be attacked. These tips should help you raise awareness within your company, keeping everyone informed and alert, and make sure your various structures are prepared for any threats coming their way.

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