Top tips for keeping your business safe online

Many SMEs don’t consider cyber crime to be a significant risk, especially if they don’t sell online or believe they have anything worth stealing.

However, the reality is that SMEs are an attractive target for cyber criminals. They can benefit from stealing your intellectual property, customer data, financial information – and even address details, all of which can be easily accessible to them unless you follow basic steps to protect your business.

Whilst the idea of implementing cyber security measures can overwhelm many small business owners, the reality is that securing your business doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. In fact, it presents opportunities to boost your reputation, improve your customer service, become more productive and gain an advantage over competitors.

Below are a series of top tips to help small business owners increase the barrier to entry for cyber criminals, protecting themselves, their staff, their reputation, and their cash flow:

1. Train your staff -Your staff are the best line of defence against cyber crime. The most common problems faced by businesses include staff exposing IT systems to malware by plugging in external devices and USB sticks, opening infected emails or using unsafe websites with malicious code. Make staff aware of the dos and don’ts and help them understand how a cyber attack could affect them and the business. There is a free online course available for small businesses – see the Cyber Streetwise website for more information.

2. Keep software secure – Don’t ignore those messages from known and trusted providers asking you to update your software! They exist to keep you as secure as possible and to close any holes that hackers may have found their way into. In the same way, don’t use old, unsupported systems – they stop providing the updates that protect your computer, so you’re inviting cyber criminals in.

3. Use complex passwords – Weak passwords leave your business open to fraud, theft and extortion. Using a strong password is a quick and easy way of giving your cyber security a boost. Stay away from common passwords such as pet names and dates of birth and instead use a password made up of three words or more, upper and lower case letters, symbols and numbers.

4. Have anti-virus – Installing anti-virus software and keeping it up to date is another layer of the cyber security net that will help keep the criminals at bay. Make sure you’re using your software correctly and to its full potential.

5. Get a badge – Cyber Essentials is an easy to use, cost effective way to help businesses and the public sector protect themselves against the risks of operating online. The government-endorsed and industry-supported scheme provides businesses with clarity on good basic cyber security practice and the key technical controls required to achieve this. Research has found that 82 per cent of consumers would buy more from small firms online if they could show they were protected from cyber crime. By achieving certification, you are doing just that. It helps to reassure customers, boosting their confidence and trust when buying from you -and encouraging them to do so again in future.

Go to to get more advice on the steps you can take to keep your business safe online.