Convenience and cyber security

I’ve been thinking a lot about convenience and cyber security lately. Many of the most successful products and services make our lives more convenient. So much so that we take many of them for...

I’ve been thinking a lot about convenience and cyber security lately. Many of the most successful products and services make our lives more convenient. So much so that we take many of them for granted, probably to the point that they’re considered ‘Staples’ rather than modern conveniences.

Modern Conveniences

Washing machines, microwaves, mobile phones… and now we have voice-activated systems such as Google Home and Amazon Echo. Step-by-step new products make modern life a little bit simpler and easier. They are convenient; they allow us to get on with doing other things, whether for work or leisure.

Unsurprisingly we’re not keen to give up these hard-won conveniences. Would you give up your washing machine? Probably not, I know I wouldn’t. Yet my Grandparents never owned one! That’s just two generations ago.

What about your TV remote control? Probably a bit more easier to live without, but in these days of thousands of channels being available it would make choosing channels a pain. Yet I grew up as a boy with a TV that didn’t have remote control – it hadn’t been invented. We were considered privileged for having a colour TV! That’s less than 40 years ago.

The internet and mod-cons

Fast forward to 2018. The internet has become integral to our lives – business, personal, leisure, everywhere. Many governments have passed legislation to instate internet as a ‘Utility’, giving it the same precedence as electricity, natural gas and water supply.

Boiled down, the internet represents convenience. I can buy pretty much anything I need on the same laptop I’m writing this blog piece on. Pay my bills? Online. Book my next flights and holiday? Sure. I can manage my bank account. Less than 20 years ago all of these would have required a journey to buy goods, services or take care of my bills. The shopping centre, the bank, the travel agent, and so forth.

Would I want to go back to that? Absolutely not! Would you? I doubt it. The internet makes our lives easier and more convenient.

But (you knew there was a “but” coming). By making our lives more convenient, the internet has opened us up to a concept that never existed until late in the 20th century – cybercrime. Protecting ourselves against it does, regrettably, entail giving up some of the convenience of the internet we’ve all become so accustomed to.

Convenience and cyber security don’t immediately feel as if they are symbiotic.

Making life easier for our customers

In the past week, I visited the dentist and also a client with leisure facilities. Both had their wifi network and passwords on public display. Why? Well, it’s convenient for their customers. It’s nice if they have to wait a while to be able to get online. It’s also convenient for them. They don’t have to field requests for the wifi password. Everyone saves time and is more productive right?

Wrong. There is an assumption that everyone with access to the facilities has good motives. What if they don’t? By providing access to your wifi network you potentially provide access to your:

  • IT network
  • Systems, files and folders
  • Client and supplier databases

Do you want absolutely anybody to access these? Of course not, yet that’s what these businesses had done, either inadvertently or with the best motives, or both.

Putting aside the implications of a data breach and fine under GDPR (and you shouldn’t – they’re serious), you’re putting your business at risk. For the sake of a wifi password! As I said, convenience and cyber security don’t appear to align.

Aligning Convenience and Cyber Security

This is just one of the almost countless examples where I see businesses putting convenience ahead of IT security. There are actually relatively straightforward measures that can be taken to improve your online and IT security, without giving up too much convenience. They cost a modest amount of money but compared to the consequences of a cyber breach they really aren’t costly at all.

With SMEs now officially the most targeted businesses for cybercriminals, isn’t it time to give up a small amount of convenience for the well-being of your business?

Convenience and cyber security can go hand-in-hand, you just need to take the appropriate measures, thanks for reading CCS’s latest blog.

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