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Cyber essentials for SMEs

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As a small business owner, the last thing you need is an online security breach. That’s why it’s well worth getting the right security measures in place and reviewing them on a regular basis, writes PAUL MACPHERSON, Head of Security, Xero.

Most of us couldn’t get through the day without using the internet. Whether it’s helping us get to work or schedule plans with our family, one things certain – this access to the internet has massively transformed our lives for the better.

The same goes for small businesses, giving them access to a connected, global world and the ability to transact and operate with far greater efficiency. However, as more small businesses take advantage of the exciting opportunities that the internet offers, it’s crucial that cybersecurity is the number one priority.

According to security software company Norton, globally 689.4 million (31%) people were affected by cybercrime in the past year. What’s more 63% of people also believed it’s become more difficult to stay safe and secure online over the past 5 years. Criminals are getting smarter online – and small businesses, with often limited resources at their disposal, can be particularly vulnerable.

In many security breaches, cyber-criminals simply exploit insecure remote-access software, employee activity and weak password security to gain access. Hacking methods such as phishing and social engineering, as well as sophisticated malware are popular methods used to breach seemingly secure systems.

As a small business owner, the last thing you need is the consequences of an online security breach. That’s why it’s well worth getting the right security measures in place and reviewing them on a regular basis. Here are four focus areas that should be deployed immediately to safeguard your business from attack:

  • Choose the right security software, and don’t forget to update it

It pays to install reputable anti-malware software and regularly update it.  Malware often tries to exploit known vulnerabilities in software and this could seriously compromise your systems. Anti-malware will detect and stop most malicious software including computer viruses, worms, Trojan horses, ransomware, spyware, adware and scareware from entering your systems.

As well as keeping your anti-malware software up to date, you need to keep your operating system and application up to date with the latest security patches. It might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of businesses who don’t do this. Look at the recent WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware instances in which a known Microsoft SMB vulnerability was exploited which organisations should have patched.

  • Equip your employees with the right skills

Many scams and attacks rely on manipulating people to do something that gives hackers the information or access they’re after. Known as social engineering or phishing, these tactics include using personal information to earn trust from unsuspecting employees. All it takes is two seconds for you or one of your team to click on a link or attachment in an email, or enter a password on a fake login page, and you’ve let the criminal in.

No matter what industry your business operates in, you’ve got to educate every last member of staff – including yourself! There are easy-to-use online tutorials available that help train people in the dos and the don’ts when it comes to staying safe online.

  • Use 2SA

The 2SA or Two-Step Authentication is like putting an extra deadbolt on your front door. It involves two layers of security. First, enter your existing password and then input the verification code generated by an app on your smart device. This significantly reduces the risk of account takeover – the cybercriminal may get hold of your password but that’s not enough for them to gain access.

2SA (or 2FA, MFA or 2SV) is also an important security measure to protect your email account. An insecure inbox is incredibly risky; once hackers get hold of it, they’ll be able to reset all your passwords. A compromised business email account is often used for invoice fraud, by intercepting and changing the payment bank account numbers on invoices attached to emails as PDFs.

  • Enforce strict password protocol

The number of passwords most people have these days can be quite overwhelming. So it’s natural for you to pick something that is relatively easy to remember, but this can a dangerous move. A basic password is easy to hack – a dictionary attack can crack a basic code in a couple of seconds.

Make sure you reinforce just how important it is that everyone picks a robust password. Ask them to run it through a password checker to make sure they’re being as safe as possible. Rather than changing your passwords regularly (this can lead to bad password habits and predictable passwords), create a strong password from the get-go. This should include a mix of at least 12 characters of different types. Of course, if you suspect that your password has been compromised then change it immediately.

Using a different password for each login is also good practice. Having a unique password helps prevent a compromise of one login becoming a compromise of many. Consider installing a Password Manager to help generate strong, unique passwords for each site.

A small, agile business typically allows employees to access email or other business apps from their phones. If this is the case, ensure that your employees protect their phones with a password, PIN, or biometric (fingerprint) authentication. A mobile device manager (MDM) can enforce security policies and delete access to business data if the phone is lost or stolen.

Unfortunately, we are living in a world in which these online threats are only going to get more frequent and more sophisticated. Global research tells us that more than 50% of cyber attacks target small businesses. But, the measures you can take to combat these threats are also getting wiser. It might seem like a large commitment with not much ROI, but in the long run it could be the making or breaking of your company.

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AppDate: Shedding light in our times of darkness

SEAN BACHER’S app roundup highlights two load-shedding apps, along with South AfriCAM, NBA 2K Mobile, Virgin Mobile’s Spot 3.0 and SwiftKey.

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Load Shedding Notifier

With all the uncertainty about when South Africans will next be plunged into darkness by Eskom, the Load Shedding Notifier tries its best to keep up with Eskom’s schedule. The app is very simple to use. Download it, type an area in and click the save button. The app automatically tells you what load shedding stage Eskom is on, the times you can expect to start lighting candles and for how long to burn them.

Multiple areas can be added and one can switch between the different stages to see how each one will affect a certain area.

A grid status is also displayed, showing how strained the country’s electrical network is.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

EskomSePush Load Shedding App

EskomSePush does much the same as the Load Shedding Notifier, but allows multiple cities to be tracked. However, they may just want to rethink the name of the app if they want wider respectability.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

South AfriCAM

South AfriCAM enables users to add branded stickers and frames from popular lifestyle magazine titles to their posts, including Huisgenoot, YOU, Drum, Move!, TRUE LOVE, Women’s Health and Men’s Health. 

In the process, they can earn JETPoints for their social influence: through the app’s built-in JET8 social currency, users are rewarded for their engagement. For every in-app like, comment, and share, users earn JETPoints, which can be used to redeem products online or over the counter across more than 2 500 retail stores in South Africa. Users are additionally awarded JETPoints for cross-posting onto external social media networks.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device

Click here to read about console quality graphics on a mobile phone, Virgin Money payments made easier, and an app that redesigns the keyboard.

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Drones to drive
Western Cape agritech

Aerobotics is set to change how farmers treat their crops by using drones and machine learning, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The Western Cape is poised to be a hotbed of innovation in the agritech sector, with drone piloting set to playing a major role in in the tech start-up scene.

This is the view of Tim Willis, chief operating officer of pioneering drone company Aerobotics, a Cape Town drone company recognised as a world leader in agritech.

“Drone piloting is a key skill that feeds into the value chain of the budding 4th Industrial Revolution,” said Willis. “Cape Town and the Western Cape is uniquely positioned to be the melting pot for innovation in the agritech sector, as a leading agricultural exporter and a hub for creative tech start-ups.”

He was speaking at AeroCon, a drone expo organised by Aerobotics and held in Johannesburg this week aimed at providing opportunities for drone pilots to apply their skills in South Africa, and to show how drones are being used to collect data on crops. 

The event was supported by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), Wesgro, PROMMAC, MicaSense, and Rectron, among other

“We’re starting to sign up farmers across the country,” said Willis. “It’s exciting because farmers are starting to use drone technology on their farms. When a farmer wants a drone flown, they want it flown [now] so it’s important for us to capture that data as quickly as possible to show that drones are fast and effective.”

According to aerobotics, drone technology can help farmers reduce pesticide use on their crops by up to 30%. The result is environmentally friendly farming, reducing stressed crops and a healthier harvest. 

“We use aerial imagery from drones to recreate a 3D model of every single tree on a farmer’s orchard,” said Willis. “We’ve done this for millions of trees and it starts to give the farmers metrics of what they’re doing. We provide them with the health of the trees, the height, the volume, the canopy area, which enable the farms to make decisions on what to do next.”

Click here to read more about AeroCon and what it offers to those wanting to get into the drone industry.

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