28TH MAY, 2020

How To Protect Your Business From Cyber Security Attacks

Nowadays we live in an increasingly connected world, and keeping a bubble around your IT infrastructure is no easy task. This makes it crucial to understand how cybercrime may affect your business, as well as where the potential risks lie.

Cyber attacks can decimate a business, not just financially but reputationally too. Reputations take years to build but poor cyber security can destroy it in minutes. For small businesses in particular, meeting the costs of putting things right could be an insurmountable task. Even for multi-million-pound organisations, cyber security can be a minefield with many millions of pounds at stake. Worryingly, the loss of vast amounts of money, data and knowledge can be just a click away.

What is cyber crime?

Cyber crime is where criminal activity is used to gain illegal access to a computer system, application or network. It is then “hacked” with the aim of stealing or destroying data, or installing malware.

Cyber attacks are sadly not new, but as technology moves on they are becoming increasingly sophisticated. This again is why it’s crucial to understand what types of cyber attacks can occur, and how to safeguard your business against them.

The good news however is that a few basic steps go a long in protecting businesses from harm. It’s well worth taking note of the following:

1. Keep all devices updated

This one is so easy and yet many people forget to do it, not just at work but at home too. It’s especially important for company networks - remember the NHS WannaCry ransomware attack of May 2017?

Businesses should also regularly update their laptops, tablets, desktops and mobile devices, ensuring that web browsers and operating systems are kept up to date. Firmware also needs to be installed on hardware like scanners and printers so that latest threats can be detected and disarmed. Mobile devices such as smartphones shall also have any apps updated regularly too.

2. Put robust procedures in place

Cybersecurity solutions themselves are obviously essential in stopping attacks getting a foothold, but equally important to a business is having an effective cyber crime strategy in place. This can help to make hackers less interested in your business to start with.

The way to do this is the have a well-documented, regularly updated data use policy that all your staff can see at all times. Restricted access should be given to those from outside the company, such as freelancers or contractors too.

3. Monitor staff access

Your employees are likely to have in-depth knowledge around the inner workings of your business including the IT networks. Again, culture plays a part here and staff need to be aware of the dangers in leaking security information to outsiders. A level of company loyalty is essential, and they should be encouraged to flag any concerns. Also check on how employees use passwords and make sure that passwords are changed on a regular basis.

4. Don’t open emails you don’t recognise

If an email contains something strange, like strange misspellings or it’s from an unrecognised email address then tell staff not to open it. If it is opened, then under no circumstances should any action be taken regarding the contents, including the download of any attachments. These can contain malware that infects the network, or private data such as bank details may be obtained by the hackers. So beware!

5. What’s lying around?

Cyber crime isn’t just about what happens online. Sometimes malware can be introduced by someone inside the company or a third party like a contractor or temp. This is again why it’s so important to keep access locked down to everyone, except for the people who actually need it and can be trusted. Additionally, physical items like SD cards, DVDs, CDs and USB drives shouldn’t be left lying around, but should be locked away securely when not in use. Not only does this stop them getting lost, it also means malware can’t be installed - intentionally or otherwise.

6. Double check any requests for very large, unusual or urgent payments

Picture it: a request has come through from a senior manager or director for a large amount of money. You recognise the person and all seems well – until you look a little closer. Perhaps their name is spent slightly wrong, or the amount is exceptionally large. Perhaps it’s marked EXTREMELY URGENT which strikes you as unusual.

Employees should be taught to trust their instincts. Even if a request appears to be from a fellow colleague or someone higher up in the company, they must check and double check before acting on it.

Final thoughts

By safeguarding your company against cyber attacks, you’re protecting it from all manner of expense and stress. However, don’t forget that if you do become a victim of cyber crime, you need to report it under your GDPR obligations. Although only a relatively small amount of cyber crime is ever solved, it may help alert other businesses and prevent attacks in future.

Has your business made scientific or technological steps in cyber security lately?

Then it could be due a substantial financial tax benefit via the R&D Tax Credits scheme.

If you’re eligible, why not use the Tax Cloud portal to make your claim? Fully guided and developed by the R&D tax experts at Myriad Associates, you’ll be able to calculate exactly what you can receive before making a supported, maximised claim. It’s an excellent value alternative to the fully Myriad service and is ideal for Irish companies with more straightforward tax affairs and those that have claimed before. Small businesses also love it because it keeps the cost of claiming R&D Tax Credits down, whilst still avoiding the pitfalls that potentially lead to Revenue enquiries.

With up to 37.5% of R&D costs recoverable, even the smallest claims can be worth thousands of euros - can your company afford to miss out?

Try the Tax Cloud portal for businesses today or call us on +353 1 566 2001. There’s also our contact form which you can send if you wish.

Barrie Dowsett, ACMA, GCMA
Author Barrie Dowsett, ACMA, GCMA CEO, Tax Cloud
Start your Tax Cloud claim now Discover if you qualify and ensure your R&D tax claim is maximised. Get started
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Barrie Dowsett Barrie Dowsett ACMA CGMA Chief Executive Officer
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