Cyber-attack: It could be you

Don’t tempt fate: if you wait it could be too late.

Edward Snowden is a well-known hacktivist. He disapproved of what was happening in the National Security Agency (NSA) so he leaked confidential information in protest. Elsewhere Sony Pictures Entertainment was subjected to a high-profile cyber-attack, presumably because it wanted to release a film about a national dictator who perhaps takes himself more seriously than Sony realised.

These major incidents can seem a world away from the life of a young entrepreneur who has just started a company. There is so much to organise: premises, company pension scheme, meeting legal requirements, suppliers, getting the right staff. As for the IT system, it’s just been set up with the latest software so we can leave it be for now. After all, how big is the threat to a relatively unknown start-up.

Is that understandable? Of course, but that doesn’t make it right. If you think you’re not at threat from cyber-attack because you just aren’t well known or important enough, you’re effectively leaving your door unlocked. That is an excessive risk to take. Hackers don’t need to be sophisticated these days. Anyone can obtain malware and the vulnerable targets will eventually be found. Besides, cyber risks don’t just come from deliberate attacks. There is also the chance of inadvertent contamination from another network or employee error.

In addition, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force in 2018. This regulation obliges companies to ensure data is only made accessible on a need-to-know basis and that it is not retained for longer than necessary. That is good for individuals and data integrity. However, it also places responsibility for data security firmly with the business community. So there will be costs in adapting to meet these new requirements, plus sanctions for non-compliance.   

Vigilance is the key. Incorporate cyber security into your business model, have contingency plans ready. If that sounds like too much work with too few resources, think again and imagine what could happen. Being prepared could make the difference between your start-up being a success or a failure.

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