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Your Small Business Is Not Too Small For A Cyberattack

Ashley Madison. British Airways. eBay. Sony. Hilton Hotels. LinkedIn. Twitter. Gmail. South African Police Service. These are a very few of the big-name, public cyberattacks that have occurred in the last five years. Vast numbers are unreported, the number of incidences is increasing and, most importantly, it is not just big brands that are targets.

Tony Koutakis

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One of the biggest risks a small business owner can take is underestimating the threat of cyberattack.

I know you probably don’t believe me, because your emerging company is not really a target compared to the brands listed above, right? Wrong.

Symantec’s 2016 Internet Security Threat Report notes that in 2011, small businesses were the target of 18% of cyberattacks. In 2014, that number was 34%. In 2015, small businesses were the target of 43% of attacks.

You are not too small to be a target. In fact, you’re a target because you’re small. SMEs exist in the same threat landscape as larger companies, but with fewer resources and less expertise. Attacks on small businesses are more costly in terms of the data stolen, and more destructive in terms of damaged reputation and lost trust.

Make no mistake, cybercrime is big business and targeting small and midsize businesses makes economic sense. Cyber-criminals want the biggest bang for their buck, which often means targeting the SME segment.

Related: 10 Steps that Could Save your Business from a Cyberattack

Still don’t believe me? Consider the five primary reasons your business is just the right size for a cyberattack:

1Your data is valuable

valuable-company-data-and-information

What of the following information is on your computer right now – intellectual property (like new business proposals, product pipelines and strategy planning), supplier information, employee details, customer details, accounts information? And are you in contact with bigger companies, like partners or suppliers or clients?

It is a myth that you and your company holds no information worth stealing. You have valuable data in your possession, and you’re connected to other people with valuable data in theirs.

2You are low risk and high return

Your small business is a high return target because of the reasons above. You’re a low risk target because it’s unlikely that you have the software or support required to detect and counter advanced malware that may lurk in your systems for months before many security tools will flag it.

Even if you did successfully defend yourself against an attack, what then? Cyber-criminals are difficult to identify, they can operate from literally anywhere and they are seldom successfully prosecuted. 

3You’re an easy target

It’s unlikely that your company employs a specialist Head of IT, let alone a Chief Information Officer or Chief Information Security Officer. These are the dedicated professionals employed by enterprises specifically to ensure the safety of company data and networks.

It is rare that an SME can afford multi-layered security like that deployed by large companies, and it is common that security policies and procedures are lacking.

Cyber-attacks follow the path of least resistance and your business is probably on that path.

Related: Free E-Book On How To Spot A (Cyber) Whaling Attack

4Your guard is down

company-security-protection

Unfortunately, there is not much local research on small businesses and cybercrime in South Africa but it is quite likely that we mirror the trends identified in international research. As I indicated earlier, the threat to small businesses is increasing but concern is not.

Owners of emerging businesses are falsely confident that cybercrime is not something they need to worry about. Consider some results of this survey conducted by KPMG in December 2015 – only 23% of small businesses surveyed in the UK cited cyber security as a top concern.

Half of the small businesses surveyed thought it was ‘unlikely or very unlikely’ that they’d be a target for an attack. Ironically, 60% of those small businesses had experienced a breach.

5Your (free) tools won’t save you

Free antivirus software and basic password controls are better than no security at all but today, commercial-grade software, a secured network and firewalls are minimum requirements.

This is not licence to scrap security measures – if you’re not scrimping on security and properly educating your staff, then you are likely defended against most known attacks.

Consider security measures like secure business email with content filtering, antivirus software that includes social media scanners and anti-phishing, and digital certificates to protect customer login and credit card details.

The reality is that the best defences deployed by most SMEs will not withstand a targeted, dynamic cyberattack. Assume your company is a target – because it really is – and get assistance to identify your most valuable data and how it could be vulnerable. Those are the first steps of defence against well-funded, highly mobilised cyber-criminals.

Tony Koutakis is the Executive Head of Ignite – an internet and communication technology services provider specifically focused on South African SMEs. He is convinced that with the correct business and technical support to connect, run and grow their businesses, South African SMEs have the potential to transform the economy. Ignite offers fast, easy, and affordable access to services and digital tools in four areas essential for SME growth - Communication, Connectivity, Cloud and Business Applications.

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Rethinking Learning In The 21st Century

The changing world of work has disrupted the three elements of the traditional ‘career’: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

Wits Plus

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Traditionally the concept of a ‘career’ was considered to include three elements:

  1. A career represented our expertise, our profession, and ultimately our identity.
  2. A career was something that built over time and endured. It gave us the opportunity to progress and advance.
  3. A career gave us financial and psychological rewards. It made life meaningful and paid us enough to live well.

The changing world of work has disrupted all three elements: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

A career can now be as long as 60 years; at the same time, due to rapid advancements in technology and the changes that bring about in the workplace, skill sets can become obsolete in as little as five years.

Increasingly, companies need to rethink the way in which careers are managed and learning opportunities are delivered, and many have already begun to overhaul their career models and L&D (Learning and Development) infrastructure in line with the digital age.

Related: Your Investment In Knowledge

Employees’ learning behaviour is also changing. In the past, employees were able to obtain the skills required for their career early on and as a once-off; now, the career itself is a journey of learning, up-skilling, re-skilling and continuous reinvention to remain relevant and to thrive in the changing world of work.

Older employees who studied at a time where most of one’s learning occurred prior to entering the workplace, find themselves working alongside millennials who place greater value on learning and progression rather than on earning potential as a first priority.

Eighty-three percent of the respondents surveyed in Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey say their organisations are shifting to flexible, open career models that offer enriching assignments, projects, and experiences rather than a static career progression.

However, in today’s fast-paced business world, even if companies are restructuring L&D delivery, no one is going to make you engage in a strategy that is essential to your future success – continuous learning. You will have to take the initiative yourself.

Noted self-help expert W. Clement Stone, in his many writings on this topic, recommended that one spends anywhere from a half-hour to two hours a day in study and thinking time. This tireless dedication, combined with an insatiable curiosity, will equip you to excel in the future world of work. What’s more, learning new skills and knowledge can be fun!

The good news for both companies and for employees is that an explosion of high-quality content and digital delivery models offers employees ready access to continuous learning. The Wits DigitalCampus offers a range of accredited and fully online short courses to support your continuous learning.

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Your Investment In Knowledge

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

Wits Plus

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Most people spend their lives collecting, spending, and worrying about money — so much so, in fact, that they say they “don’t have time” to learn something new.

However, some of smartest and busiest people in the world — Barack Obama, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates — all spend at least one hour a day on deliberate learning. They see what others don’t: That learning is the single best investment of our time that we can make. As Benjamin Franklin said long ago, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

One of the very benefits of ongoing technological advances is that it empowers an accelerated and personalised learning experience that puts the learner in the driver’s seat. Modern learning harnesses the speed, power and ubiquity of digital capability. Online platforms, software and mobile devices means that the traditional hurdles to learning — such as income, status and location — have just about disappeared. Knowledge can now be gained by anyone with the passion to pursue it and the commitment to stick with it.

Related: Building Customer Relationships

We are only at the tipping point of what future learning technology can deliver. Artificial intelligence (AI) will transform all aspects of human capital management, including learning. Technology-enabled learning will be immediate and directly relevant to the task, for example:

  • personally tailored learning content and experiences delivered to you as and when you want or need them
  • chatbots and virtual assistants can source and categorise the information that you need for optimal decision-making
  • augmented and virtual reality simulations can provide a multi-sensory experience to speed up and embed learning.

Additionally, social connectivity already enables user-generated content to outpace and outstrip what traditional education and learning institutions can deliver.

Knowledge may be the new money but, unlike money, you don’t lose it when you use knowledge or give it away. Transferring knowledge anywhere in the world is free and instant. It’s fun to acquire and it makes your brain work better. It helps you think bigger and beyond your circumstances. It puts your life in perspective by essentially helping you live many lives in one life through other people’s experiences and wisdom.

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Are You Struggling To Find Financing For Your SME? Try Alternative Finance

If you don’t qualify for traditional funding or if it isn’t the right fit for your SME why not explore alternative funding? We specialise in alternative financing options by providing in-depth and custom plans for you and your business needs.

Spartan

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Alternative Finance is finance beyond the traditional – it is defined by the financiers’ area of specialisation – by what they specialise in, whom they serve, and how they provide their funding. It does not replace traditional finance but rather functions as a complementary and additional form of funding.

Alternative financiers are specialists – they focus on a particular need and on a specific audience. As a result their ‘how’ is customised to deal with their chosen target market and for this targets unique needs. This applies to the funder’s processes and to their level of flexibility around things such as collateral.

An example of this is that a SME may have an existing R1 million overdraft (their traditional finance) secured by R 1.5 million collateral but suddenly they need R5 million for some kind of contract or bridging finance – they need it fast and don’t have that extent of collateral.

The traditional funder cannot provide what they need, their process is too long and their flexibility is too low. An alternative financier providing bridging finance and specialising in SMEs is ideally positioned to fill this gap.

One of the most significant differences between a traditional funder and an alternative financier is in their process. In the case of the alternative financier, they have often chosen to deal exclusively with a particular customer base, for example SMEs. As a result, this funder has both an affinity and contextually relevant empathy in working with SMEs.

Not only do they speak the same language the funder also has an appreciation for the time and material constraints of the SME and has developed their processes to cater to this market. This applies most notably to the turnaround time of the funding need and to the assessment aspect – where flexibility around things such as collateral is vital in making the finance happen for the SME.

A traditional funder is unable to meet the deadline of a bridging finance need, submitted on an urgent basis, where the finance is needed as soon as 2-3 days from time of application. A specialised or alternative funder is able to do exactly this. A traditional funder is also unable to find creative methods in solving the SMEs lack of high-value collateral in applying for finance.

This SME has generally already used their high-value collateral for traditional credit facilities but now needs funding for growth or resolution of a temporary cash flow challenge. An alternative financier is able to look at such an application in a different way, and has most likely already established alternative ways to make this happen for the SME.

Related: 5 Key Questions To Answer For Raising Funding

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