The ONS found that the most common cases of fraud and cyber crime were bank and credit account fraud, totalling 2.5 million incidents. This was followed by "non-investment" fraud (which includes scams related to online shopping).
We’re all familiar with horror stories of big firms caught out by cyber attacks – TalkTalk and LinkedIn have both hit the headlines in recent months – but it now seems there’s been something of a sea change of late in cyber criminals’ thinking.
Small firms are just as much at risk as larger firms
Increasingly, it’s small firms rather than huge corporations that are finding themselves the target of phishing and DoS (denial of service) attacks, malware and viruses. In fact, almost half of all global attacks logged during 2015 were against companies with fewer than 250 staff.
“Most firms still believe that it won’t happen to them or that they’re too small to be a target,” says Mark Murphy, CTO of Excell, Workspace’s connected services provider.
“On the whole, larger organisations have got the message and have implemented changes; many expect to be attacked periodically and plan for it. Smaller businesses seem less prepared and have become easy targets. I see attempted fraudulent activity almost every day and most of it is directed at small businesses.”
Precautions are easy
So, the message to small firms is “be prepared”. The good news is that most of the measures that companies can take to protect themselves are inexpensive and in some cases free. “You don’t have to spend millions,” says Mark Murphy.
“If there was only one message to promote it would be educate your staff, even if there are only two of them!” Low- or no-cost precautions such as installing anti-virus software, having ‘strong’ passwords and changing them often, ensuring software is up to date, and subscribing to the government’s Cyber Essentials scheme can all help greatly in reducing your risk of cyber attack.
Excell are available to help Workspace customers in lots of ways, too, from simple and free advice to protection of a specified resource, or penetration testing to ensure defences are as strong as they can be.
“We already use some of the same discovery techniques used by cyber criminals to identify potential vulnerabilities in customer networks,” adds Murphy. “Once discovered, we alert the customer concerned and advise how they can lessen the threat. We’ve also invested heavily in software and systems to lessen the impact of DoS attacks when (yes, when) they happen.”
What are Workspace customers doing to counter the cyber threat?
We asked three businesses based at Workspace how they feel about the cyber threat and the measures they’re taking to keep their company data safe.
Norman Liu runs Drunken Sailor Media (DSM), a strategic marketing consultancy firm, from Club Workspace Chiswick. Find out more about Norman here.
Is cyber security something that you prioritise?
Absolutely. You can go from hero to zero with a data breach, causing loss of business, trust and credibility. And that’s just our side. For the client, the risks are even higher. They could lose confidential financial data which, in the wrong hands, could be very damaging. The data could end up with ID fraudsters – I don’t even want to think about the consequences. It’s just not worth taking the risk.
Do you have any advice for other New and Growing Companies on tight budgets when it comes to cyber security?
Passwords are the one thing that people never change. I would advise companies to invest in a Password Vault (DSM uses 1Password), which is around £75. For this, your passwords are stored safely and you ask the system to generate a password for you for each of your accounts. This way, you never repeat a password and you can get your password from anywhere in the world via your mobile app and computer by using your master vault password.
You’re in a co-working space. What measures do you take to prevent security breaches?
I store all my data in the Cloud and on our company’s private cloud, just in case. We use a combination of Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive and DropBox, all of which have passwords to access data. One security concern I would mention is people not locking their computer screens when they visit the bathroom or go out to lunch. Someone can easily install a keyboard tracker app without them even knowing and get access to everything! Always lock your screen when you’re away from your computer, or set your screen to auto-lock after five minutes.
Tom Harvey and Steven Duke are the founders of the creative agency Spoke. They are based at Vauxhall’s Vox Studios.
They recently told us about their collaborations with other businesses based at Workspace.
Do you worry about cyber security?
Tom: Absolutely. We work with some big clients and we have a responsibility to look after any information which is sent to us – as well as our own stuff. We take data protection very seriously.
Steve: Our goal right from the off when we established the agency was to ensure we had a solid base so that clients trusted us, knew us and had faith with us. Getting the office at Vox meant we could invest in the right IT infrastructure.
You’re on the Excell network. Have you put in any extra security measures of your own?
Tom: Yes, as we’ve grown we’ve put in extra measures. Security is important to us as is looking after people’s information. We worked at a bank so we’re familiar with high levels of security. We certainly do all we can.
Nik Darlington runs specialist wine importer Red Squirrel Wine from his Acton Business Centre HQ. He's also written for Workspace on marketing, trade show and the importance of taking a holiday.
You’re selling directly to the public. How do you ensure customer transactions are secure?
Prior to setting up Red Squirrel, I actually did an extensive bit of consumer research among friends and family about online shopping. Funnily enough, no one brought up cyber security as an issue! Having said that, we guarantee full and proper safeguards, whether in terms of protecting customer data, ensuring payments are secure, or protecting ourselves from outside interference, by operating on a robust, respected and secure platform, in our case Shopify. It comes with all the bells and whistles and ensures we're up to date on compliance, with instant upgrades and round-the-clock monitoring.
Would you recommend using a shopping platform to other small businesses?
An off-the-peg solution like Shopify isn't as bespoke as doing it all yourself and therefore it has its limitations. But it’s extremely cost-effective and allows me to get on with running my business without having to worry too much about cyber security and compliance.
Workspace is working collaboratively with Excell to provide secure managed connected services to Workspace customers across London. As a Workspace customer you'll get access to your own technology consultant to provide you with the support you need to work safely. For more information on how Workspace can support your technology needs as a growing business click here.