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CYBER SECURITY RISKS YOUR EMPLOYEES NEED TO KNOW WHEN WORKING FROM HOME

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Mike is the Editorial Director at Lendza

 

The landscape of labor is changing. Most of us have already seen it coming: the slow but impending digitization of everything. However, the global pandemic really sped things up, didn’t it? Recent statistics even suggest that most of the people who transitioned to remote working have no intention of returning to a traditional employment setting even after the health crisis.

There are definitely steps that we can do to influence our employees’ work setup as their employers, but the decision will still be up to them in the end. That’s why we believe that the best step for us is to come up with a crisis management plan that incorporates the risks involved in remote working. Taking a step further, we strongly feel that the biggest risk involves cybersecurity.

In this article, we seek to talk about two things. First, we want to list down the cybersecurity risks that employees can expect (and thus, need to know). Second, we also want to share with you some quick steps to mitigate them.

 

Top Remote Work Cybersecurity Risks

Here are the top three most common cybersecurity threats that remote workers and their clients (or employers) are faced with:

1.    Phishing

Phishing remains to be one of the most pressing cybersecurity problems for traditional and remote workers alike. It is a type of attack where a hacker creates a legitimate-looking website to trick people into entering their login credentials.

It can come in many forms. We’ve received reports of phishing in seemingly genuine employee portals and website login pages. It is still more common to get attacked via email, though.

To make matters worse, most of us (and our employees) already have an established idea of what a phishing email looks like. These assumptions can then influence our decision-making process, making it easier for us to fall prey to such attacks. In truth, there are a lot of phishing emails that look perfectly credible. Some of them are even sophisticated enough to deceive even the strictest email filters.

2.    Weak Network

A lot of companies place considerable investment into securing their networks. Most prefer the assistance of cybersecurity companies and consultants. After all, they already have established network security products and related services ready for their clients to sign up for.

There are some who prefer to keep things in-house instead. This is certainly a wise (and more affordable) move depending on the kind of talent you have.

The real challenge, though, is the fact that your remote workers won’t really have the same level of security. It doesn’t help that home router software is rarely updated. What’s worse is that a lot of us don’t even have a premium firewall at home. These certainly create a lot of opportunities that hackers can take advantage of.

3.    Human Error

Finally, there is a huge percentage of cyber attacks that happen just because of human error. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an employer, a traditional employee in an office cubicle, or a home-based freelancer.  Anyone can commit mistakes that can make them more vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

 

Here’s a quick list of the most common errors for your reference:

  • Creating weak passwords
  • Creating a universal password for all your logins
  • Writing your passwords on paper
  • Storing your passwords on an unsecured digital device
  • Entering your password on a shared computer
  • Letting others borrow your computer and other digital devices
  • Letting others borrow your credentials
  • Relying too much on the remember feature of your digital device for your logins
  • Leaving your digital devices unattended
  • Mistakenly posting the answers to your security questions on social media

There are definitely other circumstances out there that cybercriminals can exploit, but the ones we have listed above take the cake of being the most prevalent.

 

Quick Cybersecurity Steps

Anyway, let’s move on to the steps that even your remote workers can do at home to quickly minimize risks:

Training

Cybersecurity companies and consultants don’t just provide products and sound advice. Some of them also provide cybersecurity awareness programs. Advanced training on the subject can significantly decrease the risk of phishing and other cybercrimes.

While signing up for a ready-made curriculum remains to be the ideal option, this doesn’t mean that you can’t train your employees in-house. Even a simple PowerPoint presentation that you can distribute to your remote workers is better than absolutely nothing, after all.

Improved Network

The cheapest thing that you can do to decrease the risks of an unsecured home network is to simply require your remote workers to use a router equipped with the latest encryption features enabled.

This will encourage them to be more vigilant when it comes to updating their home routers.

The best decision, though, is to play a more active role in your remote worker’s network connection. Give your employees firewalls. Upgrade their network plans. Invest in your remote worker’s gear.

These steps would certainly require a hefty sum of investment especially if the majority of your workers are currently working at home. It’s still worth it, though.

Presence of Mind

Lastly, you can significantly decrease human error by just encouraging your employees to focus on their job and be more mindful of both their online and offline activities.

 

To match the previous section, here are some equally quick solutions to the problems we’ve posted earlier:

  • Create strong passwords by mixing alphanumeric symbols with special ones. Don’t make a password out of a word or statement. Make it random and impossible to guess.
  • Create different passwords for various online accounts, logins, and more.
  • Refrain from writing your password on paper. At the very least, don’t label that paper as “password”. It’s a rookie mistake.
  • Don’t use other people’s computers and electronic devices, especially if it will require you to log in to anything. On the other hand, don’t let others borrow your computer, digital device, or log-in credentials as well.
  • Don’t make a list of all your passwords and put it on a single device. You’ll be putting yourself into a significantly vulnerable spot should you somehow misplace that device by accident.
  • Lastly, don’t post anything related to your security questions online. Even something as simple as your dog’s name can be exploited at the hands of the wrong people.

 

Business

IT COST MANAGEMENT: 10 STEPS BUSINESSES CAN’T IGNORE

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By Matt Dando, Director, Strategic Business Value Consulting at Serviceware

 

In today’s ever-accelerating digital era, and as we recover from a global pandemic, digital transformation has stepped more firmly into the limelight. Over the last 18 months, digital initiatives have accelerated, with investment in the cloud also increasing dramatically. Digitalisation is arming CFOs and CIOs with data, but understanding what to do with it can be overwhelming, especially when battling to manage cost data from the various vendors associated with both cloud and existing on-premises investments.

With pressure around sustainability acting as another catalyst for cloud adoption, never has there been a greater need for businesses to have a complete, detailed and transparent view of all IT costs. In fact, now is the time for businesses to ensure that they are managing IT costs effectively – not just in terms of cutting, but also optimising, investments, and reinvesting in the tools and technologies that can and will enable them to keep up with the wider business strategy. Luckily, there are 10 simple steps that businesses can follow in order to ensure a comprehensive, detailed and streamlined control over all IT costs.

Step 1: Building a comprehensive IT service catalogue

The starting point for IT cost control is the creation of an IT service catalogue. This catalogue outlines individual IT services, information about their purpose, location and costs, to create a detailed overview. Having a clear and complete definition creates standards for available services and bridges the gap between different departments.

Matt Dando

Step 2: Effectively monitoring IT costs

One of the most important tools for the efficient tracking of IT costs is the control of the value chain, from the smallest cost units to finished business units. With the help of service catalogues, benchmarks, the use of IT Financial Management (ITFM) or what is often referred to as Technology Business Management (TBM) solutions, comprehensive access to this data can be guaranteed, creating a ‘cost-to-service flow’ that identifies and controls the availability of IT costs.

Step 3: Assessing IT budget management

Even with perfect transparency of IT costs, there are different approaches to allocating IT budget – centralised, decentralised and iterative. With a centralised approach, the budget is determined in advance and distributed to operating cost centres and projects in a top-down process, allowing for easy, tight budget allocation. With this approach, however, there is the risk of overlooking projects that offer potential growth opportunities. With the decentralised approach, the process is reversed. Operating costs are precisely calculated before budgeting and projects are determined. The downside is that budget demands might exceed available resources.

Finally, the iterative approach tries to unify both methods. Set budgets, overhead and prospective projects are put together to make a detailed assessment of the most viable course of action. Although the most lucrative approach, it also requires the most resources. None of these approaches are necessarily superior. Instead, it depends on the available resources, and the enterprise’s structural organisation.

Step 4: Managing IT budget for growth

Before allocating IT budget, it is important to define costs into two categories: ‘run’ and ‘grow’ costs. ‘Run’ costs usually include operating costs, while ‘grow’ costs refer to all services and products that are intended to change, transform or expand the business. Benchmarks and standard definitions can help with this categorisation, but do not necessarily have to be followed, as long as cost allocation remains consistent. When definitions have been clearly determined and projects assigned, the IT budget needs to be allocated and decisions need to be made on how to split the budget. Whilst a split of 70% run/30% grow is the norm across most enterprises, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, and decisions will rely on varying factors such as availability of resources and the goals of the enterprise as a whole.

Step 5: Keeping a positive gross profit margin

By following the steps above, organisations can achieve complete transparency with regards to which products and services are offered, where IT costs stem from, and where budgets are allocated. This makes it easier to analyse how much of the IT budget is being used and where costs lead to profits and losses. If the profit margin is positive, the controlling processes can be further optimised, and, if the profit margin is negative, appropriate, or timely, corrective measures can be initiated.

Step 6: Staying tax compliant

One additional important factor in comprehensive IT cost control is tax compliance. The more the enterprise of a company operates internationally, the more relevant it is to stay on top of varying international tax regulations. IT products and services that are marketed abroad are subject to country-specific tax laws and, to ensure that they are adhered to without errors, it is necessary to provide correct transfer price documentation. This in turn depends on three factors:

  • Transparent analysis and calculation of IT services based on the value chain
  • Evaluation of the services used and the associated billing processes
  • Access to the management of service contracts between providers and consumers as the legal basis for IT services.

By achieving the transparency enabled by the previous steps, it is possible to demonstrate international tax compliance.

Step 7: Benchmarking IT service pricing

The first step in pricing IT services is to collect benchmark data. These can be researched or determined using existing ITFM solutions that are able to obtain them automatically from different – interconnected – databases. Next, a unit cost calculation is necessary in order to define exactly and effectively what individual IT services – and their preliminary products – cost. This enables businesses to easily compare internal unit cost calculations with the benchmarks and competitor prices, before making decisions about pricing.

Step 8: Providing factual cross-driver analysis

A properly modelled value chain makes it clear which IT services or associated preliminary products and cost centres incur the greatest costs and why. This analysis allows for concise adjustment to expenditure and helps to avoid misunderstandings about cost drivers – for example, the importance of infrastructure on the generation of IT costs. Then, strategies can be developed to reduce IT costs effectively and determine more careful use of expensive resources.

Step 9: Accounting and invoicing IT costs

IT cost control through the value chain enables efficient usage-based billing and invoicing of IT services and products. If IT costs are visualised transparently, they can easily be assigned to IT customers. This increases the transparency of the billing process, and provides opportunities to analyse the value of IT in more detail. There are two options for informing managers and users about their consumption: either through the showback process – highlighting the costs generated and how they are incurred – or through the chargeback process, in which costs incurred are sent directly to customers and subcontractors.

Step 10: Managing supply and demand

The manual nature of Excel spreadsheets poses a risk to data integrity and should therefore be avoided, as they are impossible to keep up to date all the time and require significant effort to maintain. A holistic analysis and greater cost transparency results in a larger, more detailed overall picture of IT service consumption, which allows conclusions to be drawn in a timely manner to enable the optimisation of supply and demand for IT services in various business areas.

Optimising and maintaining IT cost control

Following the above steps will ultimately enable businesses to reach new levels of efficiency and maturity – and, more importantly, create a secure, transparent, and sustainable IT cost control environment. Budgets can be optimally utilised, IT costs can be cut and overall productivity significantly boosted. However, businesses that ignore this advice will be severely hindered if they do not stay on top of the ever-changing conditions of the current market landscape.

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Finance

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR FINANCIAL ADVISER

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With World Financial Planning Day approaching, it is the ideal reminder to meet with your financial adviser and review your financial position. To help you prepare, Jaco Prinsloo, certified financial planner at Alexander Forbes, outlines some questions to ask:

 

Am I sufficiently covered?

Just like insuring your car against a loss or damage, you also need to insure your life and your ability to generate an income. Your financial planner can assist you in setting up a personal insurance policy to protect you against the loss of income or life. You can use the proceeds from the policy to replace your income or take care of your loved ones when you are no longer here to provide for them. A good financial adviser will also warn you if you are over-insured, as this leads to paying unnecessary premiums which could be better used elsewhere.

 

Jaco Prinsloo

Am I invested according to my risk profile and goals?

Knowing your risk profile will help you determine your risk appetite to reach your investment goals. You might like the safety and security of money market funds, but saving for retirement using money market funds means your money will not grow fast enough. You exchange the risk of your money fluctuating with the market, with the risk that you will not be able to retire due to insufficient savings. Your financial adviser can help you find a balance between your comfort level and your investment goals to make sure you sleep well at night while being able to retire one day.

 

Are my investment goals on track?

Your investment returns must be secondary to your goals. Ask your financial adviser to give you a future cash flow projection for your goal to see if you are on track. Although the projection is just an assumption, it will give you a target to aim for. In addition, if you need to make adjustments, your financial adviser can help you find a cost-effective and tax-efficient solution to meet your investment goals.

 

What fees am I paying?

Some investors believe that they are not paying any fees or that there are no costs associated with their investments. However, reinvesting dividends, issuing statements, and buying and selling shares all come at a cost. Ask your financial adviser what your effective annual cost (EAC) is. This will show you the total cost of managing your investment. If you are paying above the industry average, ask your financial adviser to help you to explore alternatives. With investments, you get what you pay for. So do not always look for the cheapest option – look for the option where you believe you could get the most value for your money.

 

How is my financial adviser doing?

As you will be sharing personal information about your finances, it’s important to build a trusting relationship with your financial adviser. To ensure you receive up-to-date and current advice, remain current with industry changes and do not be afraid to question your financial advisor on these developments and the potential impact to yourself. An informed decision will give you the trust and confidence to act on any advice provided by your financial adviser, as you know it is the best for you.

Our emotions and feelings are often our worst enemy when it comes to personal finances. Your financial adviser cannot pick the next hot stock or make your debt go away. But they can save you from making emotional decisions and provide you with the support to reach your goals. Schedule that meeting with your financial adviser – and if you don’t have one as yet, there’s no time like the present.

 

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