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Is your small business vulnerable to Cyber-attack like the NHS

Reading recent reports on the NHS you can see that even large corporations, with all their resources are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. 

Written by: Matthew Parton

Published: 2017/05/18

The recent Ransomware hack on the NHS may have been solved but it clearly highlights vulnerabilities that even large corporations can succumb to. In my conversation with many small businesses, many owners see Microsoft windows updates as an irritation and operating system upgrades as a simple profiting exercise for the software giant. But that’s a cynical view. Updates and changes to software are there for a reason. Software is not a calm pond it’s a constant moving ocean of adaptations to an ever-changing software industry, which unless managed and tamed can lead to chaos for any business.

So what is Ransomware?

Simply put its software that once installed on your operating system, can encrypt all your files and prevent you accessing them until you pay the ransom, hence the name. Sounds trivial and easily solved by restoring a backup, if you have one that is. You would be surprised how many business go to restore a backup to find out something is wrong as they haven’t tested it works or worse still haven't made one.  To add insult to injury the encryption keys are difficult to break so don’t think you can pop to your local computer specialist to fix it as they most likely won't be able to. Larger corporations can probably absorb this cost but something like this could cripple a small business, ask yourself this question could you manage without your systems for a whole week? 

Prevention is not Safer its Cheaper than Cure!

Cyber Attack

Prevention is not safer its cheaper than cure. I cannot stress this statement more so. Go get a quote from an I.T specialist once you have a major problem and are looking pretty desperate,  you’ll soon find out how expensive it can be. Consider this: an I.T. company's average daily cost will be nearly a £1000/day and take into account that a problem like this, if its infected most of your machines in your business could take days if not weeks to find and resolve. I’ll let you do the math but its easy to see how expensive this could easily become.  

How does a small business prevent a cyber attack?

Well the answer is simple in most cases – Proactive prevention.

  • Automatic Software updates – this means you need to keep your software and hardware up to date with the latest software patches at all times, preferably through automatic updates. This will ensure that when the software vendor identifies a threat or vulnerability in security they will most likely release a fix which is automatically applied to your systems.
  • Keep up to date with your operating system software. Do not keep out of date unsupported operation systems – criminals are more likely to exploit the weaknesses in these systems more so than current systems.
  • Ensure your PCs at the minimum have the latest antivirus software installed.
  • Move your internal software to the cloud, even more so for small businesses as this will provide many benefits that you cannot gain from keeping your software running on your own premises.
  • Don't install freeware versions, you get nothing for free and you might end up with a nasty little surprise.
  • There are many other issues that I have not covered here like firewall ports, routers, DMZ's and many other more technical terms, however for most small business that use software in the cloud most of these issues are automatically taken care of.

 

Cloud is Less Secure, the myth?

For the layman Cloud is simply web based software that you access through your browser or from locally installed software and is managed off premises, usually on servers that are in hosted in multiple regions around the world.  “Remote servers around the world!” I hear you say.

You would be surprised the number of people I speak to that say cloud is less secure than on premise software; "Don’t like my software running outside my business anyone could access it", "what if someone stole it, how would I get it back".  The other surprise is that most of these businesses either don’t have a backup plan or haven’t tested that it works at all. A high risk manoeuvre for any small business.

I would say that cloud is probably more secure and more reliable than on premise systems.

I would say that cloud is probably more secure and more reliable than on premise systems and cheaper to operate overall. Why?

  • Most cloud software is located in multiple regions around the world, this means there are multiple copies available providing both resilience and no single point of failure. Compare this to small business with one office. Should that business experience fire or theft then that could destroy the business as most likely all there software and data is kept in the same location.
  • Cloud software is mostly Web based and runs in the browser, this is secured using the same HTTPS encryption software that your bank typically uses both. This proves the authenticity of the provider and ensures your data is encrypted as it travels over the internet.
  • Most cloud software is provided as a tenancy, unique to your business and most certainly isolated and encrypted which means only you can access these systems and files even if there are multiple copies of it.
  • Backups come as standard so your software will always be available and in the event of a disruption, backups can be restored quickly. Could you say this about your own business?
  • Software upgrades and patches are always kept up to date so any weaknesses that are identified by a community of users are quickly extinguished.
  • You can access your software anywhere anytime as long as you have access to the internet via a phone, tablet or pc. This may seem trivial but in the event your business has a disaster, your staff can quickly get up and running without any downtime affecting your profits.
  • Lowered I.T costs – this is probably the biggest benefit I see in using cloud based software is the amount of reduced I.T. dependency. For a simple monthly fee you are not having to worry about backups, patches, upgrades, malware etc. oh and paying the I.T. Guy big wages. It means you can spend more time concentrating on the activities that make money rather than worrying about the things that don’t.

 

Summary

Overall seeing events like this always highlights to me how so many businesses think they are saving money by not investing when in fact all they are doing is growing the risk until the event happens. Remember prevention is not safer it’s cheaper than cure. For any small business moving their software systems into the cloud will make their business more secure, more reliable, more productive and more resilient to crime. 

If you would like to know how you can protect your business from Cyber attack with Microsoft Cloud then talk to one of our experts today.