Cyber security: Taking the first steps to secure your SME

Cyber security is often characterised as being hi-tech, complex and expensive. While it’s true that there are some incredibly sophisticated and costly solutions out there, the truth is that even simple measures can have a measurable effect on your business’s security.

For example, keeping your copy of Windows or macOS up-to-date is usually as a simple as clicking a button – and often updates can be set up to install automatically. Developers frequently release these patches to close holes in their products and strengthen your system’s security.

The same thing applies to software – especially web browsers, which are on the front line in the battle against internet-borne threats. Software like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox will often install security updates quietly in the background without the need for user intervention.

Whichever operating system you use, running anti-virus is an essential precaution to take. A subscription to most popular solutions costs less than £30 a year. It won’t keep you 100% secure, but it will protect against known threats – just make sure you keep it up-to-date too.

When creating accounts, strong passwords are key. All the security solutions in the world won’t help you if an attacker can simply type “Password123” into a box and gain access. Use long passwords with numbers and special characters, and avoid words that are personally connected to you.

It’s also worth investing in training for your staff. It’ll pay for itself when an employee spots a suspicious email and reports it, rather than downloading a malicious attachment that could cost your business thousands of pounds, damage its reputation and lose you customers.

If you want to protect your business but aren’t sure where to start, a good first step is to take a look at the government’s Cyber Essentials scheme, which measures your business’s security preparedness against five key technical controls to ensure you’re getting the basics right.

Moving into the world of security can be daunting, but it is crucial to protect your business against one of the biggest risks in the connected world. There’s plenty of help and advice out there, so take the first steps now before it is too late.

Matt Smith is a cyber security journalist and a SANS Cyber Retraining Academy graduate.
@MattCASmith |