Avoid security breaches: Simple steps to stay secure online

Get cyber aware

News headlines ensure that we all know when a big brand has had its security compromised, but have you ever thought about what would happen if your local surgery or favourite boutique were victim of a hack? Even worse, your own business? Big brands may overcome security breaches, but for small businesses retaining control of their online assets and maintaining customer trust — both online and offline — is crucial to survival.

Simple steps to keep your company secure online

One in three small businesses fell victim to a cyber attack in the last 12 months, according to the Government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2016, with 25 percent experiencing a breach at least once per month.

These figures put forward a cold truth: small businesses are not immune. And, taking simple steps to boost your defences online has now become more important than ever.

We know that running day-to-day operations keeps small businesses busy, often leaving little time (or in-house knowledge), for cyber security. But, the Cyber Aware campaign has been launched to support consumers and businesses with simple and quick advice to cover the important bases swiftly.

Security Breaches Cyber Aware Campaign

Following these tips can help protect against the majority of cyber threats – meaning protection against losing emails or valuable customer data as a result of a hack.

Cyber Aware is the Government campaign drawing on expertise from the new National Cyber Security Centre and Law Enforcement to recommend simple, but vital precautionary measures:

Create strong passwords

It pays to “think random” and create strong passwords made up of three random words — especially for safeguarding your email and business’s social media accounts. Worryingly, only one in three Britons follows this advice, according to Ipsos MORI.

Keep software updated

Business owners should always download the latest software updates as soon as they appear on all devices, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. It only takes a few moments and is crucial in helping to protect devices from hackers and viruses, as well as upgrading programme functionality. Plus, always set your apps to update automatically as soon as a new version is available.

Get cyber security certified

Finally, it makes good business sense to meet the industry standard for cyber security and give your business a competitive edge. Certification from the Government-backed industry supported scheme, Cyber Essentials, is already mandatory for central government contracts advertised after 1 October 2014, which involve handling personal information and providing certain ICT products and services. Many large firms require the same of their suppliers. Find out more here.

Get social to help prevent security breaches

Visit cyberaware.gov.uk for more information about how to protect your business and follow the conversation on Twitter @cyberawaregov. If you fancy yourself a creative person, get involved with the #thinkrandom campaign by re-tweeting and/or writing your own posts with three random words ideas for a strong password!

Peter Wilson is Deputy Director for the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism and Head of Unit for RICU (Research Information and Communications Unit) in the Home Office. Peter leads a team of specialists and civil servants responsible for devising, delivering and measuring the impact of key communication and intervention strategies across Serious Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism.