Many people will use their computer for most of their business needs, including correspondence, invoicing, accounting, documentation and research, instead of looking to physical tools as simple as a pen and paper or a book. Similarly, there are hordes of people out there who, in this technological age, will prefer to do any form of every day communication behind the safety of a computer screen. Ordering a take-away, booking a table in a restaurant, planning a trip or even organising a meeting – all of these tasks can easily be completed by using technology.
So with this dependence on technology in mind, why do we still continue to put the our virtual security at the bottom of our list of priorities, instead ensuring that physical tools have the best possible insurance and yet leaving our internet-based possessions uninsured and insecure? These days businesses put a lot of effort into ensuring that their physical assets such as cars, equipment, offices and computers are insured and secure, so why do they not give the same amount of consideration to virtual security?
For example, a business that uses CCTV to ensure that their premises are safe is putting time and money into ensuring the security of something physical. However, the chances are that this business has not considered this technology needs some form of virtual security as well. CCTV equipment can be hacked into, just like any other computer, and valuable data can easily be lost or equipment tampered with remotely with just one slip or little mistake.
When CCTV equipment was not connected to the internet and was purely a camera, cable and a video tape, this would not have applied. However now that technology has moved on, we need to think about where CCTV images are stored, how they can be accessed and whether they are secure.
So what is “Physical” and “Virtual” security? Whilst physical security involves making safe assets you can touch, such as cars, houses, and computers, virtual security involves the protection of data and other information that is stored remotely across the internet, or in the cloud.
Many businesses use cloud storage and software systems for their day-to-day business, including payroll, invoicing, provisioning, banking and other sensitive information. Compared to the US, where companies are forced by law to take reasonable steps to protect themselves from cyber attack, UK companies do not spend a lot on cyber security despite the havoc which can be wreaked on a business by virtual crime.
Businesses often choose owning their own physical server over virtual storage, because they are unsure of the levels of security when it comes to virtual servers, and they are right to be sceptical about trusting a ‘cloud’ which keeps all of their important and sensitive information on the internet. However, while the cloud does store your information data in the ether, it can be a very secure method of keeping things safe.
The advantages are that not only does it enable a business to work, share and store anywhere, anytime, but it also takes away the fear of something happening to your local server while you’re out of the office. There is always the chance of natural disaster, fire or theft rendering your physical server useless or inexistent, and if data backup precautions have not been taken, all the insurance in the world will not get your data and your sensitive information back.
The worst thing possible for your business reputation, however, would be to not only lose your private data but to allow it to get into the hands of the wrong people, and this could happen whether you choose to store information physically or virtually. The best way to stop this happening is to make sure that your virtual and your physical storage are well secured and insured to protect you and your business as much as is feasibly possible.
Storing your data on a cloud system stored in a highly secure data centre allows you the flexibility that you need to work and the protection that you need from any physical compromise, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to be 100% safe on the cloud. Virtual security and the associated insurance to protect against breach is just as important as physical security and insuring against theft, and, in this technical age, it is becoming more relevant.
Businesses in the UK spend just £20 million per year on cyber security, despite the fact that they rely so much on technology and virtual storage, as well as virtual methods of communication. The threat of cyber hacking is becoming more and more prominent and there is a constant fear among companies in the UK that they will be the next victims of cyber attacks. Therefore, it is surprising that the UK’s spend on cyber insurance is less than 10% of that spent on the exact same thing over in the USA.
However, financial experts in the UK have suggested that the amount that companies spend on insuring their cyber storage is going to rise steadily in the next five years, and research published in The Times recently suggested that companies will soon begin to attempt to offset the effects of security breaches, threats and hacking attacks on companies’ sensitive information. Spending hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds on protecting your company, your clients and your employees from cyber threats is not an amount of money to be balked at.
Yet it’s an amount of money that is worthy of its expenditure, as proved by the results seen in the USA of a law which was introduced to force companies to insure and protect themselves against cyber threats of any kind. Though this might be seen as a bonanza for insurance companies it has resulted in businesses taking security seriously, whether physical or virtual, and this has benefited those companies, their suppliers and their customers.
Security is almost as big in this day and age as technology; where ever you go you will encounter security measures of some kind, and lax security in others. If that lax security is yours, then somebody else will find it, and somebody else will take advantage of it.
Virtual security isn’t just a fad and it isn’t going to stop being important. Businesses need to learn the importance of keeping data safe and this applies to the CCTV security sector as well. Whilst you are protecting physical assets through surveillance, you are transporting sensitive information across the internet when retrieving images and holding highly confidential information about key holders and other sensitive business data on your own systems.
It is important to your business to avoid the devastation of data loss and the impact of the consequences associated with that. You may have never thought about it before, but your company could be a target for virtual criminals due to the nature of what you do. Once a device or technology is left unsecured, criminals may prise away your important data, your employees’ sensitive information and even access to your finances. This could have devastating results in your business and impact your clients too.
Assessing the risks associated with transmitting data across the internet and mitigating these by investing in your own virtual security should be taken very seriously indeed. The attitude companies can hold is, unfortunately, “it won’t happen to me”, but the chances of it happening to you are exactly the same as the chances of it happening to the business down the street. If left to chance, it will eventually happen to you, so why don’t you take steps now to enhance your virtual security as the sooner you do, then the safer you will be.
Sonia Blizzard is the Managing Director of Beaming, a company which specialises in offering businesses reliable internet and telephony services. Coming from a corporate background in the telecoms industry, Sonia worked for a firm which is now known as BT Global Services, setting up Beaming in 2004. Sonia, who has a degree in Mandarin Chinese from Brasenose College, Oxford, lives in St Leonards near Hastings, where Beaming is currently based.