Protecting your business against cyber threats

There's good news and there's bad news. The good news is that the digital world is growing which means more opportunities to connect with clients and grow your business. The bad news is that this increases the amount of potential threats when it comes to cyber security with statistics showing that 60% of all cyber attacks happen to SMEs.

This is where Connect Smart comes in.

Connect Smart is a public/private partnership that promotes ways for individuals, businesses and schools to protect themselves online. From June 22 - 26, Connect Smart held their annual awareness week that aimed to raise the profile of cyber security issues and provide tips that businesses can put into practice to help secure themselves online.  

We grabbed organiser, Catherine McLeod, to get the low down on how you can make your online space safer. 

What do you hope people took from the awareness week?

We hope people understood that everyone can take simple actions to help protect themselves and their businesses online. The most effective steps are still the ones we’ve heard before – use different passwords for each account, make them hard to guess and change them regularly. At work, limit the amount of access that people have to your IT systems – how many people actually need user admin rights to your system? And when those software update bubbles pop-up: say yes! They provide valuable protections for you. And finally, be mindful of the links you’re clicking on and the attachments you’re opening.

What sort of an increase have you seen in spam and scams over the years?

Cybercrime was estimated to have cost NZ over $625 million in 2011. With the numbers of Kiwis connecting increasing each year, this number is constantly growing (although very hard to estimate).

Why is cyber security such an important topic for business owners?

As we move more and more into an online world, it is vital for businesses to understand the information they are storing online and take steps to protect it. The successful businesses of the future will be those who invest in securing their customers information, their valuable IP and their own corporate data. In a world where you can’t see someone to shake their hand, demonstrating that your business is trustworthy, will be a massive asset. 

What type of intrusion is the most difficult to handle that you see many business owners struggling with?

Cyber criminals have time on their hands and incentives to come up with creative ways to access people’s valuable data. Attacks change shape, target and desired outcome often – the constantly changing nature of technology and cybercrime is itself the most difficult aspect to handle. For example, a number of companies in NZ and across the globe were recently faced with DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks by hackers demanding a ransom in the form of bitcoin (a crypto currency). This is quite a different challenge than attackers breaking into networks to access data or spreading viruses for fun/revenge/ideological motivation.

What stops business owners from protecting themselves – is it due to a lack of knowledge?

We understand that talking about cyber security sounds scary and hard. That’s why we like to talk about protecting yourself online – this is something that everyone is interested in. Business owners are rightly focused on doing the thing that they love and that spurred them into business in the first place but understanding that taking a few simple steps is all it takes to protect that business is actually all that is needed.

 What are some simple steps that business owners could implement now to help protect themselves?

1 - Go to and download the SME Toolkit – it will ask you a number of questions about what you currently do in your business so you can take stock.

2 - Talk to a trusted advisor; an internet one or an IT provider

3 - Think about cyber security the same way you think about your other business risks - this is just one more area to understand a few key terms to help your business thrive online.

 Any final comments?

All New Zealanders will benefit if we can unlock the potential of the internet by using it in a safe and secure way. We are really excited to be talking with NZ’s future innovators and entrepreneurs at this early stage in their business lives.  With a global marketplace for products and services, this is an exciting time for modern, online Kiwi businesses.

Emily is a Senior Advisor in the Deloitte marketing team who knows that behind every great business lies a great story. She loves talking to inspiring people who are thinking outside the box to create a thriving SME sector in New Zealand.