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REMOTE WORKING DURING THE COVID19 PANDEMIC: TOP CYBER TIPS

Scott Lester, Cyber Lab Manager, 6point6

 

Cyber security is at its most important in times of change. There are currently masses of people working from home during these unprecedented circumstances. Owners of all businesses now face the challenge of maintaining their organisation’s cyber security, as their IT-dependent employees log on remotely to keep the engine running. Whilst the unfamiliar environment presents weaknesses, there are clear steps that companies can take to shore-up their defences for the future.

 

  1. Layer your security

Single-step log-in procedures leave the business and the employee vulnerable to attack – multi-factor authentication (MFA) is the answer. MFA requires users to verify their identity via an additional piece of information, such as a one-time code, before logging in. By adding or enabling this extra phase of security to any platform or application that workers use, your user accounts are protected against cyber attackers who target passwords.

A password manager can bolster this protection. By creating unique credentials for each log in, the passwords and logins are stored and encrypted in a virtual safe. This helps employees maintain strong, random passwords for their different accounts.

For newer SMEs and start-ups seeking cost-effective security solutions, these products should be a first port-of-call. Many online services and tools often include MFA as a part of their package. Both options are friendly to smaller budgets, and work to reduce the risk of employees being hacked, therefore sustaining the business’s security.

 

  1. Ensure network security and device security

With few employees working on a company network, network security is more important than ever.

Businesses can put a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in place to provide blanket security for all network traffic. Staff can boost an organisation’s and their own security from their own home by changing their router passwords to not use default values. Simple steps such as changing router passwords to not use default values, conducting frequent virus scans of each device, and regularly updating software helps to make sure that everything is sufficiently protected.

 

  1. Make the workforce aware of cyber threats

Employees should also be made aware of the threats, and how cyber criminals will look to exploit businesses at this uncertain time. Cyber security awareness training can help workers identify when they are being targeted, and make them more familiar with internal security reporting procedures.

It is crucial that businesses communicate with their staff and update them on cybersecurity policy and best practice. Remote working requires Acceptable Usage Policies and BYOD equipment to be as secure as possible, so organisations should ensure they have addressed this in a way that allows staff to help themselves as much as possible.

 

  1. Tighten-up video calls

Third-party invasion of video conferencing calls has been a well-publicised and unfortunate trend during the current lockdown. Considered security procedures should be implemented in order to protect meetings from gate-crashers.

Whilst hosting video conferencing calls, the meeting must be kept strictly in the knowledge of attendees only, and a password should be created for entry. The meeting’s organiser can also take a register of who joins the call, and then monitor who is present throughout.

 

  1. Streamline your IT demands

The chaotic nature of this unprecedented situation means an organisation’s IT team will be receiving some heavy traffic. This is to be expected, and there are numerous technical hurdles to negotiate when facilitating a transition to remote working. This also makes IT teams more essential than ever to the smooth running of a company.  A business can ease any complications by holding back on unreasonable requests and should look to install a refined process for staff contacting the IT team, for example by categorising queries by their urgency and mediating their flow to the team. If the entire workforce subscribes to a system like this, the IT team will be better placed to perform its crucial function.

It is also essential to avoid pressuring the IT team to compromise on security measures in favour of practicality. When IT professionals resist a proposal or request, this will be backed-up with sage reasoning, and they need to be trusted.

 

  1. Understand the perils of WFH

The COVID19 crisis has placed people on unfamiliar ground. Indefinite remote working makes it difficult to balance personal time and work, and harder for staff to switch off from their job. Business leaders should be understanding that systems of collaboration will not be as immediate in the current climate, as staff adapt to this new working environment. Embracing a flexible culture and anticipating that employees could be balancing issues outside of their job is important in this chapter.

It all boils down to teamwork. Pulling together and supporting each other is critical as companies attempt to navigate the complications of the global pandemic. Organisations can move to protect their futures by trusting their IT teams, empowering them to introduce policies that create security and vigilance across the entire workforce. Combine this with installing effective cybersecurity solutions, and a business is set to thrive in this unfamiliar landscape.

 

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TIPS FOR BUSINESS EXPANSION

Alan Sutherland, CEO of Kind Consumer

 

Every successful business had a beginning.  Its founders usually looked for ways to gradually expand, attract new customers and increase monthly revenue.  From the outside looking in that type of success often feels as though it requires some form of magic or hidden formula.

So how do you drive success?  There are two which are fundamental to success.  On first glance they may seem obvious, but they are often neglected.

 

Do you have a strong team?

No matter how great your business or idea you will not drive it to its full potential without a strong team behind you.

The process of recruiting and finding the best talent is never easy.  You must over-invest time in the process as it is a fundamental investment and future growth driver.  Two principles I have learned over the years when looking at recruitment are, to surround yourself with people who are better than you and do not be afraid to recruit someone who could make you redundant.

If you can achieve these, the benefits are clear.  Better business results, stronger talent pool, and with capability future fit plus built-in succession planning.

 

Have you created a road map?

Strategy should not be complicated, as it is the set of choices you make to help you deliver your goals.  It is your roadmap.

In thirty plus years of corporate life I have reviewed many.  Countless textbooks have also been written on the subject, but there are some basic principles that I firmly believe work best.  Namely, the vision should be clear, motivating, and understood by all in the organisation.  In addition, it’s important to remember ‘less is more’.  Too often strategy papers can be voluminous and complex.  The best strategy work I have seen is on one piece of paper with clear, simple articulation of the choices you will do and equally what you will not do.  It is very empowering to tell a team what you are not going to do.

 

Alan Sutherland

Have you established a core market?

In any business, the “core” needs to be healthy before you divert any significant level of resource to expansion, there are thousands of examples where enthusiasm to grow has caused companies to fail.

As you evaluate expansion, having an array of ideas and opinions needs to be balanced with a clear brand that consumers feel they relate to.  Whilst adding new products or services is an organic part of company growth it needs to be tempered, so you do not drift too far from your core market.

Therefore, before ploughing resources into new markets, you do need to ensure that new product and services will be of value to existing (or new) customers.  You may need to ask some critical and challenging questions such as, is there a clear need for this?  Is it marketable?  Does it sit within the brand equity?  How much will consumers pay for it?

If you conclude that the demand is there, only then should you move onto executing that new idea because it will require a significant amount of investment of time, resources, and money.  If the market entry cost is potentially high, you should also evaluate a test & learn approach by launching in a limited way and, if early traction is good, then expand.

Once you have revised your existing offering, you need to engage with these new consumers to increase brand recognition.  If your business is not online, add this to your to-do-list because in today’s era, convenience is key.

A website is the shop window to your brand and, done well, can allow you to build up a direct one-on-one relationship with your customers.  If it was already an important criterion before, the impact of Covid-19 will make it indispensable.

With social media and the abundance of mobile technology, it is not difficult nor expensive to drive traffic to your site, so you need to ensure the site is engaging, easy to navigate, informative with a call to action to purchase.  Loyal customers who return to your site are worth their weight in gold!

 

Do you have a healthy working capital?

Finally, a healthy working capital is essential not just for growth but for the day-to-day operations of running a business.  Even as you start to see your business develop, you must keep a scarcity mindset with cash and make sure you have some reserves for when something goes wrong. This has caused thousands of start-ups to fail as they hit unexpected turbulence and had no contingency in place.

In today’s global economy, there is a lot of uncertainty so there has never been a more important time to maximise liquidity to meet short term obligations and avoid going bust.  Not to mention, flexibility is key when a business is looking to expand and without enough working capital a business can lose this flexibility.

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BITCOIN COMES OF AGE

Katharine Wooller, Managing Director, UK and Eire, Dacxi

 

The Bitcoin halving event, which occurred on the 11th May, has been a watershed moment for the industry.   It has been a deafening theme for crypto narrative in recent months, and more recently has caught the eye of professional investors and conventional media alike, with some predicting it will be the catalyst for a substantial boom.   It appears bitcoin, finally, has a hard-won place in the mainstream.

 

Halving: In a nutshell

Bitcoin has a key feature; there are a fixed amount available, and, crucially it has a pre-programmed supply reduction built in.  The miners, who maintain the bitcoin network, validate transactions and add them to the blockchain when they are verified.  They do this at considerable electrical and computing cost and thus are paid in bitcoin. Periodically, the reward for doing so halves.  In the past this supply reduction, which previously occurred in 2012 and 2016, has coincided with a strong run-up in its price.

 

All grown-up

Bitcoin has now been in existence more than ten years and has survived the doubters, the scammers, the hackers, government attempts to quash it, and along the way it has given rise to new innovations using the blockchain technology that underpins it.  To overstate this amazing “survive and thrive feat” as well as the innovation it represents would be difficult.  Bitcoin, conceptually, has exceeded expectations.  Alas the 5,000+ crypto currencies that have sprung up alongside it include the good, the bad, and so very ugly.  Nearly all of these should fall away as Bitcoin dominates; at time of writing it is 67% of daily traded volumes.  Understandably, there is a very short list of 3 what we call blue-chip coins (LTC, BTC, ETH) that the institutional investors have shown interest in.

 

Solving some our largest problems

There is a clear appeal of digital currencies to the cashless internet economy based, including 24/7 price transparency that is available, cross border usage, divisibility to many decimal places, as well as third party oversight and controls. Bitcoin has been on a roller coaster ride over the last two years and has held its value throughout the current dramas and even increased in value as governments have stimulated their economies on a massive scale via printing cash endlessly to avert a market meltdown.  This is likely to create a massive inflationary environment into the future and sets the stage for Bitcoin to make its next move upwards after stocks and real estate prepare to reset valuations and attractiveness.

 

A new gold?

A lot of the dialogue around bitcoin talks about an improved version of gold, as a medium to convey value.  Improved by virtue of the technology being quicker, and cheaper to both store and move. Indeed, a recent transaction of $1.1bn worth of bitcoin, by bitfinex, cost $84.  Unsurprisingly this has caught the imagination of the financial infrastructure industry.  Some market commentators postulate a 10x increase in prices in the next 12 months, based on a few % of the global appetite for gold switching to crypto, with bitcoin being the heir apparent.

 

Diversification: Now

For the industry as a whole, it is great news that bitcoin is now demonstrably decoupled from traditional markets.    It is apparent that the price of Bitcoin is outside the traditional assets’ ecosystem, and the market is determined by a new set of criteria.  Bitcoin now has the crucial “social proof” that it cannot be altered by external forces, no matter how powerful, bringing much joy to the libertarians and retail investors alike.  Indeed, google searches for ‘bitcoin halving’ hit an all-time high in the late April, suggesting firm interest from newbies.  Further, the quality of exchanges available to both retail and institutional investors has improved substantially in recent years, providing a much-needed ease of entry into the market.

 

Professional Investors

Indeed, leviathan investors, such as Paul Tudor Jones, coming out in praise of bitcoin, as a viable hedge against inflation, saw bitcoin enter – unexpectedly – stage left to a much broader financial audience.  Bitcoin is viewed as what gold was in the 1970s, thus driving increasing interest from his fellow baby boomer cohort. Indeed, Dacxi, a digital exchange focusing on educating retail investors, saw some of its busiest weeks in the run up to halving.  The addition of global pandemic and imminent worldwide recession has been the perfect storm for the world to crave safe new assets.  Crypto is firmly out of the niche and into the zeitgeist.

 

What’s next

In my opinion, crypto has reached critical mass in terms of adoption. There’s no going back.  I was delighted to wake up in London on the 12th May and see the BBC reporting on halving – it doesn’t get much more mainstream than that!

As digital currencies become the increasingly dominant technology, anyone with an interest in markets and investing would be well placed to educate themselves on this seemingly unstoppable asset class.  With the recent momentum gained from the halving, crypto is likely to be a broader theme of daily life for decades to come.

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