Mandy Haeburn-Little: Serious about online security

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Timing is everything. The very day that the Scottish Government launched a consultation to determine how to best tackle cyber crime, news of a massive breach of around four million US government workers hit the headlines. Add to that a survey by PriceWaterhouseCooper indicating that a staggering 90 per cent of larger organisations and 74 per cent of smaller businesses suffered a cyber attack last year, with an average cost per breach at larger organisations of near to £1.5m.

Sadly, we are still not seeing nearly enough local small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) addressing actions to protect their security, personal information and, of course, their finances and customer data.

Given that there are 341,000 SMEs – many in Edinburgh and the Lothians – that make up the backbone of the Scottish economy, it’s clear change needs to happen.

The Scottish Government’s new consultation, A Cyber Resilience Strategy for Scotland: Safe, Secure and Prosperous Online, seeks to gather views on what we can all do to become more resilient online. It is vital that everyone feels confident online and can safely use the internet. As the Scottish Government and Police Scotland’s business resilience delivery arm, the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC), we want to equip organisations with the tools to be better protected.

The SBRC can offer highly cost-effective solutions to small businesses. Much of what we do starts with the real basics – effective passwords, constantly updating software, not clicking on links, basic e-mail and wifi security.

But our partnership with Dundee’s Abertay University has enabled us to recruit some of the sharpest student minds in computer hacking who can carry out unique organisational or individual cyber assessments. Within no time, these students can show what is happening on a company’s network, how exposed an individual is on social media, where a person or business may be vulnerable – and, most of all, how to ensure they are safer in future.

I urge business owners to help shape policy by filling in the simple 12-question consultation from the Scottish Government at news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Cyber-resilience-consultation-1992.aspx

Mandy Haeburn-Little is Director of the Scottish Business Resilience Centre