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WAYS TO KEEP YOUR HYBRID WORKPLACE SECURE FROM THE IRREVERSIBLE DAMAGE OF A CYBER ATTACK

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By Alex Bransome, CISO at Doherty Associates, specialists in managing and securing cloud services in the finance sector.

 

recent in-depth study into 3000 UK firms and 2000 employees commissioned by our team at Doherty Associates found that 42% of the financial and legal firms questioned including those in private equity, investment and asset management, said their firm was inadequately protected against the cyber risks of hybrid working.

At the same time, one in five of the firms admitted that a major cyber attack could significantly cost their business at least £10 million or more in irreversible damage such as through loss of sensitive information, corporate and confidential data, due to a GDPR breach or fine, and long-term reputational damage to the firm.

Yet hybrid working is here to stay for over half of the firms we spoke to, despite being more vulnerable than ever to a cyber breach. A recent BBC poll on 50 of the biggest employers in Britain, including investment firms JP Morgan, Rathbones and investment bank VSA Capital, said they had no immediate plans to bring staff back to the office full-time.

And you can see why flexible working is the preferred choice for both firm and employee, as over a third of the finance and legal professionals we spoke to said that they found it easier to win new business and close deals when working from home.

However, a more flexible, hybrid scenario is creating increasingly complex cyber security challenges as employees move between different set-ups, in different places, using different devices.

 

More than one front door

With employees working outside of the office, using a blend of personal and company devices, finance firms no longer have a single ‘front door’ to protect but a multitude of entry points to secure against cyber criminals.

While it remains the case that most information leaks out by accident, the chances of this happening increases with more employees working from home, as the ‘attack surface area’ extends out to every device being used, no matter who owns it. At the same time, cyber criminals are finding ever more sophisticated ways to target remote employees, with finance an increasingly attractive target due to the high value of transactions.  What’s more, it seems a high number of employees working remotely are experiencing cyber or data breaches unknown to the firm.

 

It’s the unknown you need to worry about

52% of the finance and legal firms we interviewed said their organisation has yet to experience a cyber attack or data breach since transitioning to remote working since the first UK Covid-19 lockdown back in March 2020. Yet, a quarter of employees said they had been the victim of a data breach or caused one themselves since working remotely, one in seven had experienced a phishing attack or similar, and 42% admitted to emailing confidential client information or unencrypted attachments.

The difference between how many firms are detecting breaches compared to the reality of them occurring suggests that employees are not reporting all of the mistakes they make. It also shows that firms are still in need of a well-rounded cyber security programme that incorporates protective, detective and responsive solutions, if they are to keep their information, people and workforce safe.

It’s not the tip of the iceberg you need to worry about. It’s the bit you can’t see underneath. Underestimating the risks and vulnerabilities that come with home and hybrid working could prove costly.

 

Reinforce your moats to protect your castles

Many firms appreciate that a single ‘castle and moat’ perimeter defence approach – where employees are protected within the boundaries of the office firewall – is no longer fit for purpose in a hybrid workplace. However, some are struggling to keep up with the fast-moving challenges that blended working brings, but there are steps your firm can put in place to safeguard a firm’s ‘borderless’ network.

  • Improve your cyber hygiene and widen your security perimeter to protect those working outside the office

Cloud-based technologies such as Data Loss Prevention and Information Protection can help protect against data leakage. Ensure that all internet facing systems have multi-factor authentication, so employees keep their identity secure while working remotely, and restrict the use of personal devices.

Use software that ringfences and encrypts all the corporate data on a mobile or ‘bring your own’ devices as this means the corporate data can be wiped if the device is lost or stolen without this affecting any personal data – such as family photos – if the device is then found or recovered.  Also using disk encryption to protect all data on company devices such as laptops, will mitigate the risk of it being lost or compromised if the device is stolen.

Ensuring though that no company information is shared via personal cloud storage platforms where documents can easily be forgotten, and just as easily hacked, is also advised.

  • Conduct a cyber risk assessment at least every six months to improve your security posture

This will identify and address any critical vulnerabilities, gaps or compliance issues. An assessment should involve identifying your most important/critical assets; identifying any weakness/vulnerabilities in those assets, or in how they are used or accessed, assessing the likelihood of a risk materialising; and finally identifying controls to help address the identified risks, to reduce risk to an acceptable level.

  • Carry out regular cyber awareness training

Over a third of the financial professionals in our poll say they’ve had no cyber training since working from home from the start of the pandemic despite the fact that they are now using different software and platforms to collaborate as well as a mix of personal and work devices.

Building in regular comprehensive cyber security awareness training for every employee is critical to safeguarding against any vulnerabilities, weak spots or compliance breaches.

It should most importantly clearly convey your organisation’s approved methods of working, communicating and sharing data. Beyond this, user awareness should cover the end user security best practices and how to spot common attacks such as phishing, plus phishing assessments to actively test and measure awareness levels across the organisation.

Empowering employees with the knowledge to identify threats in real-time can become a firm’s greatest security asset so making cyber security training a ‘must’ and not just a nice-to-have is critical in this new era of hybrid working.

Your firm is only as safe as your weakest link but cyber savvy employees, robust cyber security measures, and a strong cyber defence system will keep both firm and workforce safe and secure no matter where they are.

 

Business

5 tips to ensure CSR efforts come across as genuine

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By Mick Clark, Managing Director, WePack Ltd

 

Corporate social responsibility – or CSR – is playing an increasingly pivotal role in the long-term success of modern-day companies.

The harsh reality is that only a paltry 46 percent of people trust the brands they buy from. And with more competition than ever in all walks of business, a positive brand reputation needs to be earned or customers will simply take their money elsewhere.

That’s why I share my insights on the importance of CSR in modern business and introduce an effective plan to avoid coming off as disingenuous to your employees and customer base.

The value of CSR

The needs of modern employees and consumers are changing. There is a higher emphasis placed on the ethics and morals of companies and their handling of hot button topics like the environment or social issues.

59 percent of UK workers believe their business should be investing in charitable initiatives. 67 percent of people aged 18-19 feel this way, showing a generational shift in favour of companies that support ethical, social, or environmental causes.

Mick Clark

At WePack, we recognise the importance of this and make sure to regularly donate to a variety of charities including RRT (Rapid Relief Team), and donated £6,000 to the charity’s social causes last year.

An example of good CSR can be found in search engine giant, Google. It has had notable success with its CSR initiatives. Its flagship CSR campaign, Google Green, is a companywide commitment to using clean sources of energy, cutting down on its use of fossil fuels and drastically increasing energy efficiency as a direct response to the climate crisis.

It has been so successful that its data centres now require 50 percent less power to run than the average data centre and it’s poured over $1 billion into jumpstarting renewable energy projects.

Customer attitudes are fundamentally changing, and people are far more concerned about the values that their money could be indirectly supporting. In fact, 71 percent of customers prefer buying from businesses that align directly with their values.

In the modern-day, demonstrating high levels of CSR boosts brand perception. Businesses that make it a priority are more attractive – from an investment standpoint – to both customers and potential stakeholders.

For example, more than a third of consumers are also willing to pay more for a product or service if the business prioritises sustainability specifically – so it pays to be responsible.

Businesses with purpose-driven and ethical goals and proven commitments to CSR help retain employees. Millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025, and it’s that cohort that is increasingly demanding socially responsible employers.

Those that fail to meet the needs will ultimately see their customers take their purchasing power elsewhere.

Addressing the challenges

As obvious as it may sound for a business to take on as much CSR as possible, many organisations face limitations.

Pressure from investors can disrupt the growth of CSR initiatives. Sometimes, the direction that stakeholders want to take the company doesn’t fully align with plans to target social or environmental issues.

Companies face becoming fixated on linking profitability with CSR programmes. It can be tough to present a genuine CSR programme without it coming across as a marketing ploy – presenting an extra hurdle for businesses to overcome.

Despite the challenges businesses face that are out of their control, many firms unwittingly make their own mistakes that cost them dearly.

For example, businesses can struggle to bolster their CSR programmes if they don’t consult their customers and staff first. A simple survey helps companies decide what issues to put as a priority and target to satisfy their customer base and employees.

Any attempt to create an effective CSR programme needs top-down support. Many businesses wrongly treat CSR as a separate entity, rather than fostering a companywide culture. This can lead any attempt to push back on global issues to appear disingenuous to those looking in.

Shifting the CSR approach

Because of the global shift in public needs and opinions in recent years, businesses need to better demonstrate their efforts to avoid having their campaigns labelled as a box-ticking exercise.

It’s no secret that consumers are doing more research and are becoming more switched on to spotting lacklustre approaches to CSR. Also, everyone can have their say online – it’s much easier to get exposed if your CSR campaign is nothing but an empty publicity stunt.

For example, Volkswagen’s reputation was left in tatters after its ‘greenwashing’ scandal promoted a newer, cleaner diesel vehicle that wasn’t any better for the environment than previous models. The company took it further by fitting a device that helped it cheat emissions tests – resulting in a $125 million fine.

For this reason, CSR campaigns need tangible results to be credible and trustworthy.

Sharing top tips

When it comes to structuring a strong CSR campaign, it’s critical to demonstrate several things to prove your strategy is effective in helping the chosen cause.

Firstly, evidence the fact that your efforts are helping wider communities. Whether it’s through statistics or showing proof of investment in social causes, tangible evidence goes a long way when legitimising your CSR campaign.

Secondly, balance your rhetoric. Effective communications are vital to the success of a campaign. However, it can damage a company’s image when done poorly. Businesses should speak about their chosen issues in their dialogue rather than spending too much time talking about the solutions the company has implemented. This stops them from becoming too self-promotional or sounding braggy.

To further avoid this, make sure you can directly tie your CSR campaign to corporate values and beliefs. As well as helping to strengthen your comms, it will also guarantee that company values are more than just surface-level – helping to facilitate tangible, long-term change.

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Business

How to Build Your Credit Up Safely

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by Taylor McKnight, Author for Compare Credit

 

What Is Credit?
Credit is money owed by a person that allows them to pay off debts at a lower interest rate. Most banks use your credit score to determine how much they should lend you. Any business loan or mortgage requires that you have a good credit history. However, if someone has poor credit(www.comparecredit.com/credit-cards/credit-range/poor/), they may struggle to pay back these loans, resulting in higher interest payments, making it more difficult than ever to repay the debt. Lenders are aware of this issue and keep a close eye on your credit rating to ensure that no negative information gets reported. This could prevent you from getting another loan in the future. It is important to note that having a bad credit score does not mean you have had a bankruptcy or other kinds of defaults. Many people often face this problem because of unpaid bills or late payment fees. However, this does not mean that you cannot repair your credit – it simply means that all parties involved must work together to solve the problem.

How to build your credit safely
Building your credit score is a major concern for most people, especially if they plan to purchase something as big as a home or car. A good credit score will help one get better rates in the future and make it easier to finance their next venture. Here are some things you should know to improve your credit to be used for the best possible purposes.

1. Keep paying down your balances every month: One of the biggest mistakes that could hurt your credit score is not paying your balance down each month. People who don’t pay their credit card down within the agreed-upon time typically have high-interest rates and expensive monthly costs.

2. Pay your bills on time: The same goes for making payments on a bill. Not paying it within the specified timeframe will result in negative information being added to your report, further lowering your credit score. Ensure that your bank statements are accurate and that all accounts are up to date.

3. Become an authorized user: Some companies will allow customers to become authorized users after meeting certain requirements. Take a look at the terms and conditions before applying for this option. These programs usually give access to one particular service, such as checking or ATM transactions, but are helpful when you need additional coverage.

4. Set up automatic credit card payments: There are several ways to set up auto payment options on your credit cards, including sending them directly to your checking account via email or the phone. In addition, you may want to consider enrolling in online banking services that automatically make payments from your checking account into your credit card accounts.

Other tips when it comes to credit
1. Learn how to manage debt responsibly. This is true for both personal and business debts. Many people tend to spend more than they earn, especially during rapid growth and expansion. If you find yourself facing difficult circumstances, you can seek assistance by talking to friends and family members, getting professional advice, or using online budgeting tools.

2. Don’t skip any repayments. This rule applies specifically to late payments. You need to continue making regular payments, even if you’re behind by a few days or weeks. Once you miss a payment, you’ll start accumulating late payments that negatively impact your score.

3. Try consolidating your loans. Consolidation involves combining multiple small loans from various sources into one large loan, thereby lowering the total interest cost of the loan and reducing the risk associated with it.

4. Be wise with your credit report. One huge mistake most people make is neglecting to pay their bills on time or paying only the minimum due balance each month. As a result, bad information remains on their reports, impacting their scores. All outstanding balances must be paid off completely. Otherwise, negative items that remain on your report can keep you from achieving the best borrowing potential.

5. Get your questions answered. If you have any questions regarding your credit, ask for answers now rather than waiting until you’re experiencing trouble. With a little research, you should be able to learn enough to begin repairing your damaged credit report.

What to look out for that can harm your credit
1. Not checking your credit report: Most people use their credit cards frequently but fail to check their credit reports periodically. Checking at least every 12 months can give you valuable insight into whether or not there are errors on your credit.

2. Paying your bills late: Late payments can lead to hard inquiries affecting your score, which means it appears that you’ve applied for more credit elsewhere. Make sure you never miss a bill.

3 You Close Old or Inactive Credit Cards: If your close old cards, they may show up on your credit report for some time. Closing accounts can impact your score by causing “hard inquiries” that appear on your credit report. Before closing them, look for inactive or closed card accounts on your credit report.

4. You Have Negative Records: Many people think they’re protected because they haven’t had past credit problems. However, many factors may cause a “bad” rating to linger. A single application for a credit product with a low limit may count towards a negative review.

5. There Are Errors on Your Report: Mistakes such as missing debt or inflated balances can damage your credit report. Find out how much money you owe and what types of products you purchased, then try to dispute those entries on your credit report. Ensure you correct any information that needs to be corrected. Failing to do so could hurt your chances of getting approved for future credit.

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