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Big Red Cloud is producing a report to help small businesses across Ireland appreciate and understand the considerable threat posed by cybercrime. The report highlights the risks associated with ignoring that threat and outlines the steps necessary to protect a business. The report is aimed at small business owners and their community of professional advisors including accountants and solicitors who have to contend with these threats on a daily basis.

When I first became involved with Big Red Book back in 1992 the World Wide Web was still in its infancy having just been invented by Tim Berners-Lee. Cybercriminals weren’t quite unheard of but were certainly few and far between.

Fast forward to 2016 and the technology and security landscape for businesses has changed almost out of all recognition. I moved to the cloud with our online accounts solution Big Red Cloud in 2012, the internet is very much an integral part of our daily lives, and cybercriminals are an ever increasing threat to the very existence of our businesses; businesses that we’ve worked hard to establish and grow.

Because I’ve experienced the transition from on premise to the cloud I’ve been alert to both the challenges and opportunities created. The opportunities presented by the cloud are far too many to mention but chief among them is the ability to access your data in real time anytime, anywhere. Business owners are no longer tethered to their premises; cloud accounting has enabled them to work remotely, either on the road or from the comfort of their own home.

This has truly been a game changer and our lives have certainly changed for the better thanks to advances in the digital economy. Just think about it, when was the last time you had to queue in line to renew your motor tax or to book an airline ticket? As I’ve watched Big Red Cloud grow exponentially since its launch, I’ve also witnessed a continuous growth in the number of customers reaching out to us for advice and help on security issues. Why reach out to us? It’s because we provide front line telephone support and in that moment of blind panic when they realise their data has been stolen or compromised, they reach out for a friendly and helpful hand.

One trend we have witnessed as a result of that direct contact with our customers is the increasing sophistication of the cybercriminal and, in many instances, an apparent lack of greed. Sounds odd but it’s true. Many of them are playing a numbers game – hit as many small businesses as they can for a relatively small amount. This helps keep it under the radar but if my anecdotal evidence is anything to go by, Irish businesses are being targeted relentlessly by the criminals and that also applies to our European neighbours as well.

Of course, there are other cyber criminals with higher targets and there is a group of them that are targeting professional services firms such as accounting and legal practices. A data breach at any practice could be disastrous so it should come as no surprise that the cost is a multiple of what small business will pay.

Business owners across Ireland have to address their approach to how they manage their IT infrastructure to protect agianst cybercrime. That runs the gamut of everything from PCs, laptops, external hard drives, USB keys, smart phones. Anything that can enable outside access to your data needs to be included. Even then, you are not 100% safe.

As a community, we can build walls as high as we want to protect our businesses but the cybercriminal will dig not one, but many ‘smart’ tunnels to circumvent all our hard work. This report is intended to serve as a discussion document so that you take the steps necessary to protect your business and secure its future.

Since I’ve started to record incidences of cybercrime among our customer base, one thing is patently clear – protecting your business from cyber criminals is best not left as an ad hoc task. It needs to be moved front and centre – starting now.

I hope this report will help to kick start the discussions that will help you put in place the security measures necessary to protect your business and the livelihoods of all who depend on it.

Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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