SME Survival Guide: How to protect yourself online this Cyber Monday

Managing Director

Fav thing about the office

Good banter

As a child I wanted to be a ... when I grew up

Plumber/Electrician

Guilty Pleasure(s)

Strictly come dancing

Favourite Holiday

Crete

If I had a superpower it would be...

Mind Reading

Describe yourself in three words or less

Methodical, Energetic, Reliable

An interesting fact about me

Started “Work” life as an opera singer

Likes

Horse riding, fillet steak and a good curry

Favourite Band

…into Classical Music

Karaoke Jam

Desperado- The Eagles

What I do at Q2Q:

My role is to provide the overall direction and “eye on the compass” as to where we, as a team, are heading.

I’m still very much focused on the customer and will often get involved in customer solution discussions. As a techie at heart, I’m regularly seeking to understand industry developments and directional changes that may affect our customers, so we and our customers can remain on the front foot.

Background and Achievements

I started out in an I.T technical department of what was then British Rail, following which I joined a large construction company to re-organise their I.T infrastructure.

I then spent a couple of years as a business systems analyst at P&O Nedlloyd designing, developing and implementing systems within their Bulk and Tank Carrier companies.

In 1999 I was appointed as I.T Manager of SockShop and subsequently as of Head of I.T. at the Tulchan Group, comprising then of 300 stores. Due to a Year 2000 compliance issue, we were required to seek an alternative system, which we were able to more cost effectively write ourselves. This product subsequently became known as RAWHIDE and we later sold this product into a number of other businesses. At the time it was quite cutting edge as all the warehouse function was undertaken using handheld, wireless scanners, rather than the batch scanners that were dominant at the time.

In 2003 The Tulchan Group was acquired by Harris Watson. We were then asked to take responsibility for the I.T. of Viyella Ladies wear and in 2004 the demands of two MD’s and two FD’s (Tulchan Group + Viyella), resulted in the sensible decision to break out of the group and Q2Q was born. This then enabled us to also get involved with a number of other group companies (Harris Watson owned companies) as well as other non-group parties.  At one stage we were managing the I.T for almost 500 stores across a number of businesses.

Today Q2Q retains some of the group customers that we acquired along the way, as well as a substantial number of new and diverse customers in almost all industries including accounting, business development organisations, legal marketing, medical, retail and wholesale.

Hobbies and Interests

Horse riding, running (Jogging), motorbikes, reading any of the Detective Rebus stories.

With one of the UK’s peak sales periods on the horizon – Cyber Monday – SMEs in the retail and e-commerce sectors are gearing up for an influx of website traffic and elevated sales, but what about an increased threat of cyber-crime?

It’s important to be aware that with the bottom line boost also comes an increased risk of cyber-attacks and data interception attempts. So with this in mind, it’s more important than ever that your business is well prepared to defend against – and deal with – any pesky online criminals.

But, how can your firm help reduce the impact of any ‘cyber-shoplifting’ attempts on your in-house operations? We explore some key areas below…

Think about the cloud

They say you shouldn’t have your head in the clouds for fear of missing something important, but when it comes to IT, it’s the opposite!

An unrelenting flood of site traffic can put pressure on the most digitally advanced SMEs, and that’s why considering a move to the cloud isn’t such a bad idea for organisations looking to streamline their online experience and reduce the risk of any system downtime.

Cloud servers are a scalable and secure option for companies that want to omit the need for complex and cumbersome hardware – offering the chance to rent an external virtual space. Cloud solutions are great for reducing the stress on your in-house servers, plus they’re flexible around system demand.


Equip your employees

It shouldn’t be presumed that cyber-threats are solely an external issue, as we’ve mentioned before, your employees can be the weakest link in your business’s cyber-strategy – especially if they’re uninformed about the potential dangers that come with navigating the cyber landscape.

Whether it’s opening a fraudulent email attachment from an unknown sender, or embarking on a casual spot of online shopping at lunchtime, the risks are there – and unfortunately, human error is a way of the world. Therefore, if you inform your staff about the types of tactics used by cyber-criminals, they’ll have more of an idea about what to be vigilant of in their inbox, which should aid in preventing any detrimental mistakes that could compromise sensitive data.


Maintain strong defences

Given the sophistication of today’s cyber-attacks, your SME should be kitted out with a cyber-security package that’s right for you – and that doesn’t have to mean an all-singing, all-dancing option with an eye-watering price-tag.

In fact, the most effective way to safeguard your systems is to have a roster of security programs that are useful for your individual business – remembering there’s no one-size-fits-all approach! Whether you have an in-house or outsourced IT support team, a key component to any data-protection strategy is to habitually monitor and assess your system activity – that way you know that your preventative measures are working as well as they should be.

Fortify your passwords

It’s been reported that 63% of confirmed breaches have been down to the use of weak, default or stolen passwords. So, one simple way to help keep the bad guys out is to ensure that all your shared files, communal drives and employee passwords are strong.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule with this one, but generally, longer passwords that include a concoction of upper and lower-case letters, symbols and numbers are your safest bet. It’s also not advised to use singular words, or commonly associated word combinations that would be easy for a computer or human to guess, e.g. Password123 – that definitely won’t help in keeping hackers at bay!

Don’t neglect the phones

When it comes to cyber-protection, SMEs automatically default to thinking about computers and their IT infrastructure – and you’re right to do so – but it’s good to bear in mind that computers aren’t the only portal for sneaky cyber-criminals to slip through!

With the possibility of call interceptions, an SME’s telephone system should also be well-protected. These days, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology is becoming increasingly popular, not only as it allows firms to encrypt conversations, but also because it removes the need for expensive conventional phone lines and costly call charges.

If you’d like further advice on how to protect your IT infrastructure against malicious cyber-threats this Cyber Monday, contact our friendly team of experts about conducting a customised IT audit!

SME Survival Guide: How to protect yourself online this Cyber Monday