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

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!

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