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Unlike large businesses, small to medium enterprises (SMEs) do not have dedicated IT specialists on staff. They do not even see themselves as being a target for a cyber-attack. So, how are SMEs going to defend against the threat of hackers? Thinking your business is not worth hacking is exactly the reason why it may become a target.

Some businesses find it easier to ignore cyber threats. Often, without dedicated IT staff, advice can be confusing, complex and contradictory. Businesses do not know where to start. A survey found that 48 percent of Irish businesses do not see cybersecurity as important and do not have company cybersecurity policies. A Magnet Networks survey showed a further 27 percent of respondents needed to update their security or had no security at all. This is surprising. Over the last two years, 26 percent of businesses experienced a cyber-attack. Another 18 percent said they did not know if they had been the target of a cyber-attack.

The more we use the internet to connect for business, the greater the cybersecurity threat. No sooner do we get a handle on the latest cyber threats, they change as fast as the technology we use. And, relying on the Cloud can put SMEs at even greater risk with just a single point of access.

Phishing emails are becoming cleverer at masking their true identity. Especially around tax time where you can complete a self-assessment online. Businesses walk a fine line between using technology and protecting against cyber threats. Hackers are creative and inventive. They will do anything to steal the information they need. They create scripts that can take over a web camera and modems to disable large corporations. Take action before it is too late.

Here are some things that can keep your business safe.

Avoiding email spam

Guard against phishing attacks. This is where hackers target businesses with malware attached to an email or directions to follow links. These often look like a tax office or bank notice. They always look like they come from a trusted source. This is a weak point for all businesses when staff click on these links.

It is simple to avoid this. Train staff to pay attention to all email received from unknown senders. Be wary of attachments and words in the message that leads to clicking on links. A simple trick to note is – hover the mouse cursor over a link (do not click on it) and the link address will appear. The link address is a dead giveaway to a scam. This is a good habit for everyone to follow.

Cyber-attack response plan

Be prepared for a cyber-attack. Have a response plan in place to protect the business. The plan outlines who handles what in a cyber crisis and how to respond. It will contain the processes and procedures to recover lost data quickly.

It is important to test out response plans these plans and update them on a regular basis. By being proactive, SMEs can make better decisions when faced with a hacking attack.

Create a security-minded culture

SMEs need to create a security-minded culture among their staff. Data is of vital importance, especially sensitive data entrusted by customers. It is your responsibility to protect the data. So, internet security has to be central to everything businesses do.

Build internet security into the organisation’s Charter. Make it a central part of an employee’s induction. Conduct internet security refresher courses at least once a year. This keeps internet security uppermost in staff member’s minds. And, they will always know what to do when faced with a difficult situation.

If you are not already on top of internet security, it is time to analyse the risks. Put processes in place to protect your business before it is too late.

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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