In this digital age where an increasing number of business transactions take place online, it’s more important than ever for businesses to be extra-vigilant about cyber security. Around a third of SMEs have fallen victim to cybercrime. However, the latest government research carried out through the Cyber Streetwise campaign suggests that the majority of small and medium-sized businesses in the UK are complacent about these risks. Most business leaders (66%) aren’t worried at all about cyber security and only 16% of firms plan to invest in security improvements. If you run a small business, take note of the following tips on how to stay safer online.

1. Install security software

Having top-quality security software forms an important foundation for protection against cybercrime. Without features such as a firewall, virus scans, spam filtering and malware removal – standard elements of such software – businesses’ IT systems would be extremely vulnerable to cyberattacks. While the majority of start-up computer packages feature security software, this is often for a set period of time only (usually a year). After this, a renewal will be needed to keep the protection active. So it’s important to watch out for expiry notifications and ideally renew your cover well before it runs out.

2. Keep up with software updates

Software is regularly updated to fix various bugs and other issues that could leave your systems vulnerable. It’s imperative that these updates are made at the first opportunity. Keep Microsoft Windows on track by ensuring your computer is set to download any new updates automatically. These settings can be found by going to the control panel and searching for ‘Windows Update’. Even if you’re extremely busy, never ignore any update notifications. While clicking that close button or delaying until later is easily done, it’s in your best interest to allow the updates to be made as soon as possible. Having to restart your computer and wait a few minutes for downloads to be completed is a small price to pay for staying secure.

3. Use strong passwords

Hackers have sophisticated methods for working out passwords. So if your email gets hacked and several of your other online accounts have the same password, they will all be at high risk. It therefore makes sense to have different ones for each account. Don’t include anything obvious like birthdates, names or generic terms that are easy to guess. Using random numbers, underscores, punctuation marks and a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters will make your passwords much securer.

4. Take advantage of free support

During the government’s Cyber Streetwise survey of small businesses, the main reasons cited by SMEs for avoiding making necessary improvements to their online security were expense and a lack of knowledge about what needed to be done. But there’s a wealth of free advice available to businesses online. For those who need financial support along with expertise, the government-backed Cyber Security Innovation Voucher scheme is currently offering small firms £5,000 vouchers towards cyber security costs. Applications need to be in by October 22nd, 2015.

5. Get insured against data loss risk

No matter how vigilant small businesses are, there’s still always going to be a risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime. This is why it’s so essential to be prepared with adequate business insurance. Especially for businesses handling sensitive information online and collating a large amount of data, having professional indemnity insurance in place as part of a quality business insurance package is highly recommended. This covers the potentially huge financial costs of facing compensation claims from clients if there’s been a security breach or loss of data that resulted in them losing money or incurring other damages. There have been cases such as this where small firms have had to pay out more than £100,000 in compensation costs after falling victim to cyber criminals.

Get your business fully protected today. Contact The Insurance Octopus for further information on bespoke insurance packages or to request a no-obligation quote.