By: Colin Timmis, South Africa Country Manager, Xero

In the past few years, we’ve seen an exponential increase in ransomware, malware, phishing, and other forms of cyber crime.

Unfortunately, hackers and other nefarious online actors leapt at the opportunity presented by the pandemic, and cyber crime remains on the rise.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2022, cyber security failure is a leading global risk. And reports from cyber security firm Surfshark reveal South Africa ranked sixth in the world for cyber crime density.

Small businesses can often feel unprepared when it comes to security. The truth is, a lot of cyber crime is actually preventable. Businesses aren’t helpless when it comes to safety online, and despite the growing risk, there are simple, quick and effective steps that can be taken to deter cyber criminals and keep data safe.

Last month was Cyber Security Awareness month, so here are some housekeeping measures that can help keep your business safe:

Use multi-factor authentication

We always recommend enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) as another layer of protection on company e-mail accounts and any other critical services. MFA acts as a safety-net against unauthorised access, even if the password has been compromised.

The extra step of MFA might seem a little inconvenient, but it’s incredibly difficult for cyber criminals to bypass.

The more factors that are required to gain access to a system, the more secure it is. That’s why we’ve taken the proactive approach to make MFA mandatory for our customers across the world.

Beware of phishing

Given the relative complexity of modern security systems, it’s not unusual for the weakest link to be the people using them. That’s why hackers often target people rather than software directly.

Phishing e-mails and text messages are a means to trick the user into clicking on a link, or opening an attachment to gain access to sensitive information

Cyber criminals target weakness, which is why it’s important to get into good security habits

The good news is there are some simple signs to look out for. Be suspicious of e-mails that contain an urgent action, contain spelling and grammar errors, are poorly written or are suspicious looking e-mails from public domains, or that direct you to unverified websites.

Always hover over hyperlinks to check where they will be taking you. Make sure your teams are following this, and it will help reduce the likelihood of being caught out.

Consider password hygiene

No matter how tedious the task may seem, I cannot stress the importance of having complex passwords and changing them frequently.

Password managers are particularly useful in this case − they can help you use multiple strong passwords and generate these for you. These then sync across devices to make it even easier to log in safely.

You only need to remember one password to access the manager, which securely stores all your usernames and complex passwords.

Keep software and devices up to date

It can be frustrating when your phone or apps demand that you restart the device so they can update, but these updates are critical.

When vulnerabilities are identified, developers work on code changes to resolve the issue and send it to devices as a software update. A good way to stay on top of updates is to set the system preferences to install updates automatically so you don’t have to remember each time.

Backup data

The cost of losing data can be huge. Overlayed with this, is the legal implications of storing and protecting data in the right way. Use backup services for data stored locally and turn to cloud programs to ensure data is secure.

Stay informed

Many cyber security professionals will tell you the success of cyber security programmes comes down to awareness and training.

Simply put, the only guaranteed way to stay safe is to ensure you and every member of your team understand its importance and are well-informed of new risks. Cyber criminals target weakness, which is why it’s important to get into good security habits.

Implementing these simple steps is a great step in the right direction when it comes to staying secure and providing peace of mind.

For businesses looking to grow, stay financially healthy and remain innovative in a competitive environment, cloud technology tools can help level the playing field and boost collaboration in a safe and secure way.


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