EDINBURGH is incredibly fortunate to be famed for its tourism as well as being regarded as a bona fide shopping destination.
And although some locals get irked at the very thought of traversing Princes Street or the Royal Mile at the height of summer, the benefits these two closely linked sectors bring to the city are vast and ultimately immeasurable.
They are the fabric of our culture and society – and not only that, they employ huge numbers of local people.
Yet beneath the surface lurks a threat to all businesses and their employees across these sectors – and all of us customers as a direct result.
That it is the likes of major public-sector bodies, SONY or TalkTalk that draw the most public cyber-attacks creates a worryingly distorted perception. The reality is that it is smaller businesses that are more likely to suffer business-critical breaches.
We’re all ultimately vulnerable and must not overlook or underestimate the dangers posed by cyber criminals.
It is undeniable that the internet and computers have revolutionised almost every industry, perhaps none more so than retail and tourism.
Retailers are now expected to have online stores and hotels, guest houses and B&Bs routinely use online booking systems.
It is not only online that has changed the way in which these industries work, but also at the physical location. Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) terminals are now ubiquitous, and these are becoming more and more complex in terms of their functionality, often allowing users to remotely connect to the system in order to monitor sales, bookings or stock levels.Even the humble newsagent relies on technology to ensure a smooth-running operation. Newspaper rounds are held electronically and printed daily and the accounts are managed on a computer. Imagine the disruption a business would face if these computers were to be the target of a cyber-attack?
The vast majority of cyber-attacks are indiscriminate; they are not targeted at any one particular organisation. The attackers are trying to infect as many computers as possible.
Would you know what to do if you were a victim?
Imagine a small B&B; they may only have one computer. It will probably contain all their future bookings, customer details and possibly their annual accounts. What would happen if that computer was infected with Ransomware?
Would the business be able to survive if they could not retrieve the data that was lost? How would they know what bookings had been confirmed?
A small amount of knowledge and common sense goes a long way and it is ultimately up to leaders in retail and tourism – as well as cyber security and the public sector – to ensure we do all we can to keep such critical sectors ticking.
“Scotland’s Retail and Tourism Conference – Managing the Risk”, takes place at the RBS Business School, Gogarburn on May 4.
It will present many ways of containing the multitude of risks faced by these sectors, including cyber security – with tickets available from events.sbrcentre.co.uk
Gerry Grant is Chief Ethical Hacker with Curious Frank, a division of the Scottish Business Resilience Centre