Protecting laptops computers from malicious attack is a complex task, but there are some basics we can all do, as businesses or individuals, to help to protect ourselves.
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is create a backup copy of your files. Most malicious attacks are designed to prevent you from accessing your files, until you are prepared to pay a “ransom”. If you have a backup copy, then you are not at the mercy of the attacker. Just make sure the backup copy is not kept on your computer – a local USB stick, or cloud storage are equally viable. Of course, ideally you need to keep updating your backup copy as you create more files through the year.
Secondly, install recommended software and operating system updates as soon as they are issued. Whilst you may not be that interested in the additional features the updates offer, they almost always contain security updates to help protect against new viruses and malware as they are developed. Running anti-virus software adds another layer of protection – If you don’t use an anti-virus program, most PC operating systems come with a tool included, and although some of these are not considered the most effective, they provide better protection than none.
Lastly, don’t forget your smartphone! The incidence of malware on mobile devices is increasing significantly, and just as for laptops and computers, set your device to automatically download updates as soon as they become available.
It’s a good idea to have a business landline number – our research indicates that customers are more likely to trust a company that has a business phone number than one that only presents a mobile number (they consider a business address important too).
Today, getting a business phone number is easier than it has ever been. Business telephone systems hosted in the cloud mean customers can take advantage of fully featured telephone services that use existing broadband connections. Cloud-based services allow service providers to offer extremely competitive prices, and a host of advanced features ready to switch on as needed.
Removing the requirement for a new telephone line to be installed also means you are no longer limited to phone numbers from your local dialling code. You can now choose a dialling code number from most regions of the UK, and there are options for Freephone (08xxx) numbers or 03xxx numbers that provide a single national point of contact for your customers.
Modern cloud-based services can be configured to deliver the customer experience that’s right for your business. Calls can automatically be forwarded to a mobile phone, or to a second number if not answered within a set time period, menus can be configured to give customers choices (press 1 for support, press 2 for …), and out of hours calls can be automatically sent to a customised voicemail box.
In short, we think the new breed of internet-based telephony services are a great solution for small businesses, offering flexible services at prices generally lower than traditional landlines.
From 25th May, the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) replace the current UK Data Protection Act. A visit to the UK Information Commissioner’s website will give you a wider understanding (www.ico.org.uk), but as a starting point you will need to:
Think about what data you currently have, and where it is kept.
This includes both paper and electronic data, such as registration forms, emails, databases, spreadsheets, CRM systems, quotes or invoices. Having a good understanding of what data you have is critical. Remember the data may be stored in 3rd party systems such as cloud-based accounting platforms.
Understand what you want to use the data for, and whether the regulations allow you to do so.
Just because you have the data today, doesn’t mean you’ll have the right to keep it or use it after May. A key aim of the new Regulations is to restore ownership of an individual’s data to the individual, and you may well be required to gain the explicit content of that individual before continuing to use their data.
Understand what tools and systems you have in place, and what changes you need to make to fulfil your responsibilities.
You’ll be expected to have appropriate controls and security in place for both paper-based and electronic records, through physical security measures (such as lockable filing cabinets) as well as IT Security.
Communicate your policy.
You also have an obligation to inform people as to why you are collecting their data and what you intend to use it for, in concise, easy to understand and clear language, so if you advertise your services via a website you’ll probably need to include a privacy notice at least.