Technology has become an intrinsic part of doing business. Yet as businesses increasingly embrace the latest technology, the threat of cyber-attacks is also rising. 

Ashburton District Council takes its responsibility to protect your information and funds very seriously. Council recently assessed its digital security processes against benchmarks produced by Deloitte. Of the five areas tested – Accessibility, Data Protection, Incident Response and Recovery, Employee Awareness, and Vulnerability Audit – four were shown to be at an above average or best practice level. Some improvement was needed in Incident Response and Recovery and work has already begun to do this.

Last year, one in five New Zealand Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) experienced a cyber-attack. For that unlucky 20 per cent, a digital breach may have taken them offline temporarily, resulted in crucial data being stolen, or cost them thousands in extortion and lost profits. I have also heard from local IT providers that 2018 statistics are even more grim, as hackers increasingly take new and more extreme measures.

What is most worrying is that this figure could be much worse. A recent survey by Spark Lab found that almost 70 per cent of New Zealand SMEs have no crisis management plan for cyber-attacks and 40 per cent have no virus protection installed on their company computers or devices.

Deloitte has told us that the most common attacks are phishing emails or online alerts that have been developed to fool victims into giving up passwords or sensitive information. Malware attacks, a malicious software downloaded to a target computer that can do anything from stealing encrypted files to demanding a ransom, are also on the rise.

I have learnt that making a few simple changes to your systems can help your business stay protected. Avoid storing data or records longer than you need and put extra protection, such as encryption, around sensitive information. Securely backup up all data on external storage systems, such as cloud-based servers, as malware can affect devices and connected hard drives. A number of Ashburton-based IT providers host cloud-based servers to ensure your data is protected locally. 

Install antivirus software and make sure you keep this and other software up to date. Ensure your staff have strong passwords that are kept private and are changed regularly. Never store passwords online or on devices either – consider using a password manager instead.

​Council also recently invested in cyber insurance, which can cover breaches, website hacking and IT scams for example. While this won’t protect your data from loss, it will provide financial assistance if the worst happens. Talk to your IT provider and discuss if cyber insurance could be right for your business.

Page reviewed: 16 Aug 2018 11:09am