Are you at risk of a cyber attack?

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Small and medium sized businesses are at risk of cybercrime attacks, an AAT survey has found, but many underestimate how vulnerable they are.

Cybercrime is a growing industry. This is unsurprising when you consider that almost seven billion online banking transactions were made in the UK during 2013 – up 40% since 2009.

It is not hard to work out the lure of the financial industry for the budding e-criminal. Rik Ferguson, Global Vice President of Security Research at Trend Micro and speaker at the AAT Annual Conference, observes: “The aim is to make money – that is the driver for all cybercrime, apart from politically driven and nation-state stuff.”

Almost half of small businesses affected by cybercrime

Almost half (42%) of business owners who responded to the survey said their business had experienced cybercrime. Ferguson notes that, “once inside, the criminals generally explore the network using legitimate user accounts, and sometimes they can be there for months harvesting information.” The most common types of cybercrime were virus infection to business computers  and phishing – where sensitive information such as passwords are stolen by someone pretending to be from the bank for example. Card fraud was also common, with over one in 10 respondents saying they had been victims of it.

Not taking precautions

In spite of the high number of businesses that have been victims of cybercrime, the survey found that many are not doing all they need to do to protect themselves.

• 31% did not regularly update anti-malware software to guard against computer viruses and malware. Malware may be used to steal information from computers, to sabotage them, or to spy on your computer use.

• 34% of businesses do not use firewall protection. Firewalls work as barriers between computers and the internet, preventing unauthorised access. Firewalls should be used with anti-malware software for maximum protection.

• Only 38% reported changing their business passwords regularly.

• Only 30% reported regularly installing security patches, which are needed to keep security software up to date for the latest threats.

• 14% reported not using any methods at all to protect their business from cybercrime, meaning their businesses are totally unprotected and vulnerable to attack.

Security tips for small businesses

Cybersecurity should be a priority for every business, even the smallest. Security breaches could put businesses out of action and cost money, which can be fatal for smaller businesses with little time and money to spare. Here are our top tips for keeping your business secure:

1. Protect your computers by having the latest versions of security software. Software companies regularly release free updates; always download them as soon as they are available to ensure your computer is protected against the latest threats.

2. Make backup copies of important documents. Regularly back up data on all your computers including spreadsheets, customer information and records. Store copies in the cloud or at another location separate from where you work.

3. If you use wi-fi, make sure to encrypt and hide it, so it doesn’t broadcast the network name to anyone who may be searching for a network. Also, change the default password as soon as you can.

4. Use different passwords for every different account you have. Ensure that the passwords are as random as possible, and do not use dictionary words or words which are publicly linked to you such as relative or pet names, or birthdates. Change passwords every three months.

5. Consider speaking to a cybersecurity specialist. Different types of businesses will have different security needs depending on what online functions they have. A cybersecurity specialist can give you unique advice for your business’ needs.

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Do you take precautions against cybercrime? How do you protect yourself?

Rik Ferguson will be delivering a keynote speech at AAT’s Annual Conference on May 16th.

About the Author: Jude Obi is AAT’s Assistant Media Relations Manager promoting issues that matter to AAT and its members. 


Jude Obi is AAT's Assistant Media Relations Manager.

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