Secure growth week: An SME guide to protecting against online security threats

IN: Guides

As part of the Bank’s commitment to support UK SMEs, Aldermore is celebrating secure growth week with a series of blogs exploring how small firms can manage potential risks to achieve steady business growth.

undefinedTo launch the series, Aldermore addresses one of the most pressing threats to the SME community: online security.

According to a recent report from the Federation of Small Businesses, more than 4 out of every 10 small companies (41 per cent) were affected by cyber-crime in 2013. In fact, the average firm admits to losing £3,926 due to online fraud and other forms of cyber-crime.

Despite the scale of this issue, internet security company Kaspersky Lab worryingly discovered that 82 per cent of SMEs believe their business is too small to be targeted by cyber criminals, with a third unaware of how to deal with a security breach. What’s more, with the rise of cloud-based IT systems and internet-enabled devices, the issue is only set to worsen, as an ever-growing number of small firms expose themselves to these risks.

“While it is encouraging to see the extent to which micro firms are embracing the latest technologies, this must go hand-in-hand with a strong approach to internet security,” warns Kaspersky Lab’s UK managing director, Kirill Slavin.

In light of this issue, Aldermore underlines the basic measures SMEs can take to protect their business against this mounting threat.

As a first step, businesses must ensure all devices used by employees within their professional role, from desktop computers to mobile phones, are kept locked whenever unattended. For mobile devices in particular, this will prevent any possible data breaches in the event of loss. While seemingly simple, this strategy relies heavily on individuals following protocol, so it is advisable that employees are given proper training to understand the potential risks if the process is not followed.

All systems should also be equipped with anti-virus protection to prevent malicious software infections, which must be kept up to date. Similarly, employees should avoid using disks and drives from outside the business, which may have come into contact with unsecure machines.

Crucially, businesses should take care to create passwords for online accounts and ensure employees do not leave these signed in when devices are left unattended. Passwords should be chosen which cannot easily be hacked, avoiding predictable choices like ‘password’ and not repeating the same code for all online services.

While these steps will greatly reduce an SME’s likelihood of suffering from online attacks, no system is infallible and one of the most important precautions is to set up an action plan outlining how employees should deal with any breaches.

By managing risks in this way, Aldermore hopes to see fewer SMEs falling victim to cyber-crime, and will also be offering further guidance on dealing with other forms of risk throughout secure growth week.

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