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Cyber protection 101

With the increasing rise in cybercrime, securing your business against online threats is even more vital than ever before

With the increasing rise in cybercrime, securing your business against online threats is even more vital than ever before.

In cyberspace, false modesty can kill your business, that, and complacency. If you're the kind of SME owner who thinks your digital data is too small fry to matter to anyone else, and laughs off 'cyber threats' and 'cybercrime' as somebody else's problem, it's time perhaps to think again.

'No matter how big or small your business is, if you're using the internet or an electronic device, you're vulnerable,' according to Rishen Sukai, product manager of security at MTN Business.

Globally, countless big-name organisations have been breached by cybercriminals, from eBay and the adultery-website, Ashley Madison, to the White House and CIA. A highlight of cybercrime activity, in 2015, was the discovery of a multinational gang of hackers that had syphoned approximately $1 billion from at least 100 banks in over 30 countries worldwide.

If powerfully resourced institutions like these can be compromised, SMEs face an exponentially greater risk, given that they are the weakest link in the business chain and typically lack the technology, expertise and even time to set up a credible line of defence against intrusion. What compounds the problem is that many see their funds and intellectual property as being too low in value to warrant criminal attention. The reality, however, is that every piece will be worth something to someone even if you, yourself, wonder why on earth any outsider would want to go the trouble.

Sukai recommends that SMEs begin to protect themselves by adopting a few basic security measures. 'The most common route for hackers is by an email with an embedded virus,' he says. 'To mitigate that, first ensure that your service provider has a solution for scanning email before it hits your PC. Sometimes viruses can be customised so that they bypass email security filters, so, second, have your own antivirus on your PC and make sure it's always up to date.

'The second threat is using pirated software. Very often it has stuff built into it that allows people to monitor and take over your machine without your knowledge that it's happening. The mitigation, of course, is to use legal copies of software.'

Remember, too, he says, that 'it's easy for hackers to get into your Wi-Fi hotspot. The easiest solution is to change your password often, and make sure it's hard.' And when using online services, don't use the same login password all the time.

Then, ensure that your operating system, as well as other software, is continually updated, because updates contain patches, or repair-jobs, which manufacturers issue as, and when, they discover vulnerabilities in their products. Don't ignore those annoying pop-ups that say, 'updates are ready to install', and don't postpone the updates either: they're vital to your digital well-being.

It almost goes without saying that data should be regularly backed-up and stored safely. One SME owner stores external hard-drives in a bank vault, but this extreme is unnecessary as the cloud provides a formidably secure, and more convenient place of sanctuary. Ideally, data stored on the cloud should be encrypted.

Above all, learn to love your business: its data is important, so make protecting it a priority.

Cyber threats are a sophisticated reality. While it's unwise to be complacent, it's just as unwise to give in to out-and-out paranoia. All that's required is to keep IT security on your agenda, and implement an appropriate level of safeguards to protect your assets. Apply the basic steps above, and get speaking to experts for strong, sophisticated protection.

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