The View From… is a series of blogs where we speak to experts in different professions and gather their learnings and lessons from their work with small business clients. Bruce Penson is the managing director of Pro Drive IT.
How a small business uses technology is key to its development, whether it is communicating to your in-house team or protecting your business from cyber-attacks, scams and hackers. The right technology can help your business to be more efficient and, in turn, enhance your productivity.
So, what are the key points you need to be aware of?
Cyber security should be top of your agenda
Sharing our personal information is a fact of life nowadays. Very few of us would be willing to sacrifice the convenience of purchasing goods and signing up for services online. However, as most of us are aware, there are risks when entrusting organisations to safely process and store our data.
Some hackers get a thrill from showing that they have the capability to break through an organisation’s defences. The intention may just be to cause havoc and sit back and watch as the chaos unfolds – a disgruntled ex-employee perhaps?
Of far greater concern are the hackers that target and steal personal data, in order to commit further crime. Just last year, Dixons Carphone was the victim of a hack that led to a data breach affecting ten million customers – including personal information, names, addresses and email addresses.
Identity theft is one of the major reasons that cyber criminals steal data. Once they have your personal details and credit card number, they can use them for fraudulent purposes (posing as you), or sell them on the dark web for others to do likewise.
This is why airlines and hotel chains are popular targets; in addition to the usual details, they also hold their customers’ passport numbers. Marriott Starwood hotels, British Airways and Cathay Pacific Airways were all targets of a major security breach in 2018.
Take simple steps to protect yourself
If you suspect your computer or device have been compromised, disconnect it from the internet immediately and run anti-virus software. If you suspect your identity has been stolen, register with CIFAS and/or the police if you have been the victim of fraud.
Above all, stay calm
Remember that cyber criminals rely heavily on tricking people into divulging the information they need – and there’s never a better time than when someone is panicking. NEVER call a number you receive by text or email, however genuine it may seem. Find the numbers you need (bank, building society, credit card provider, etc.) by going to their main website.
Create a vault for your passwords
Web browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer all have integrated password managers – but they can’t compete with dedicated ones. A password manager stores and encrypt your passwords for various online accounts as well as pin codes, bank account details, and documents. Instead of having to remember all of these details or worse, writing them down on a post-it note or diary, you can save all this information in one secure account, a password vault.
Embrace communication and collaboration tools
Technology can support productivity and communication by enabling employees to carry out tasks more efficiently and to solve problems quickly. What’s more, technologies such as the cloud and video conferencing allow employees to interact with colleagues and carry out all their regular tasks without being chained to an office.
There are video and web conferencing systems, and collaboration apps such as Slack and Skype which enable instant communication with staff, customers and partners without having to leave your current location.
This cuts down on travel time and associated costs, so what used to take up a whole morning for a face-to-face meeting can now be achieved in a quick 10-minute group chat.
Use screenshot tools to help you demonstrate and fix things quickly
There are many free tools available like Windows 10’s ‘Snipping Tool’ (now upgraded to ‘Snip&Sketch’) PicPick, Snagit, which all allow you to take a screenshot and share this with your colleagues. For example, you can use the tool to create step-by-step tutorials which may be helpful when trying to show colleagues, employees or even your customers how to do things – particularly if they are quite technical. From an IT standpoint, the tool can be used to record bugs or glitches which is useful to help get the problem fixed quickly and effectively. Beyond that, the tool is also great for capturing and sharing ideas.
Secure your email accounts
The best way to go about securing an email account is by using Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA).
MFA protects your accounts by requiring two or more pieces of evidence as proof of the user’s claimed identity. You may be familiar with this practice through telephone or online banking, for example, where you are required to answer questions about your first pet or your best friend at school. The aim here is to set up questions (and answers) that only the genuine user would know.