An average of one billion pounds was spent online every week in January 2017 and with such huge figures changing hands electronically comes an increased risk of retail businesses falling victim to cyber-attack and online fraud. UK businesses lost almost 30 billion pounds to cyber-crime in 20161 – and according to the British Retail Consortium, more than 50 per cent of reported fraud in the retail industry is cyber-enabled.
The potential for an attack has become even more real and immediate due to the sheer number of mobile phones in the world, which is expected to exceed six billion by 2020. And that risk is heightened even further in January when online spending records are likely to be broken once again. Most cyber-attacks exploit basic vulnerabilities in IT systems and software but by following these guidelines you can reduce the risk of becoming a victim yourself.
1. Update Outdated Operating Systems
The likes of Google, Microsoft and Apple are constantly offering updates to their operating systems. For example, Microsoft ended support for both Vista and Office 2007 this year, meaning that they are potentially more open to hacking and exploitation. Make sure your business is up to date, because updated versions are created to protect users’ data and to restrict cyber criminals from taking advantage of technology. Get rid of that defunct technology!
2. Restrict Access To Vital Information
Making the access to sensitive information restricted to as few people as necessary is an important step in defence against cyber-attacks. Not everyone in your business needs access to sensitive data sets, so by restricting its availability you minimise the risks of this data being exposed to attacks or malicious activity. Do an audit of your present access, and amend accordingly in 2018.
3. Protect & Back Up Your Data
Apart from the fact that you are required by law to protect data you hold about your customers, partners etc (and don’t get us started on GDPR – we’ve got an entirely different course for that), upholding and maintaining this data is important from a security perspective too. Protection of your business increases if you regularly back up your data, which includes files, pertinent information and other resources, because they are likely the lynchpin of your business. You’ll thank yourself in the case of an invasion where data is lost.
4. Ensure Systems Have Appropriate Firewall & Antivirus Technology
This applies to both new and existing technology. Take some time to evaluate the security settings on the software you utilise in your business, which will include web browser and email programmes. When selecting new software, make sure you opt for system options that will meet your business needs without increasing risk.
5. Train Your Staff
Your business security risks don’t just comprise the hardware and software you use; the people who use it are the ones most likely to put your business at risk. Make sure they are aware of cyber security risks, as well as how to help protect your business including how to recognise email phishing scams, using intelligent passwords and general information security. Educate them on the importance of the information they handle to help reduce exposure to the business.
The risks are huge for both businesses and consumers. But these are practical, simple steps that businesses can take to protect all parties in a transaction.