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What is Ransomware & How To Protect Your Business

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Your business is something that you will want to make sure that you protect. Not only for the sake of your interests and money, but also for your valued customers too.

There has been plenty of news stories circulating around in the past few months about Ransomware, particularly a global attack in May which affected over 200,000 different organisations around the world, including the NHS which had many IT Support companies working 24/7 trying to secure these network and stop the attack from spreading.

Dubbed the WannaCry Ransomware, it seemed to prey on a flaw in the much used Microsoft Software, which allowed it to spread across networks with ease, locking away valuable files. It seems that despite there being security experts who managed to stop this attack, as well as some other subsequent attacks, the problems that they caused, not to mention the security concerns are still very much around.

What is Ransomware?

So, what exactly is Ransomware?

It appears that this software has been around since 2005, created in the US, before spreading across the rest of the world.

The idea behind this cyber security attacks is that you will be requested to make a payment in order to gain access to important files. The hackers see this as a quick and easy way to receive money, particularly as they know that the majority of the files that they have locked down are incredibly important.

Access to these files, as well as the computer system as a whole is blocked until the payment is made.

Ransomware is a malicious form of software and can be downloaded onto a computer, tablet or even a smartphone. However in order to gain access to a network, it needs to be downloaded onto the network, this is usually done by the hacker getting the victim to click on a link, or perhaps download something.

They usually disguise it within an email attachment, such as documents, music or photographs. The victim will not know that this link contains Ransomware, and once the link is clicked or downloaded the hackers will be able to attack the files on the network via the software. This is a gradual process and the files are encrypted one after another.

How to protect yourself against Ransomware

Concerned that your business is not properly protected against any Ransomware attacks? If you are, then you will be pleased to know that there are steps that you can take in order to protect your company and customers data.

One of the first things you should do is make sure that your important files are backed up on a separate system. This may seem like an added expense, but if you find yourself as part of a Ransomware attack then you will know that the hackers don’t have the only copy of your files. However, of course they will still have this information.

It can be tricky to protect and prevent a determined Ransomware attack, particularly if you are part of a large company with plenty of potential targets. The best thing to do is to exercise caution, and remind your employees to do the same thing. After all, the hackers can gain access to your network simply by requesting someone downloads something onto a single computer or mobile phone.

As the most common way of gaining access to the network is through a compromised email or download from a website, this should be something that you and your employees do with caution. You should never download or even open an email or website that you think could be a phishing email. Even if it looks like it could be from a reputable source, such as a bank or even an employee within the company.

It is good practice to check the senders email, making sure that it is correct and that it hasn’t come from an outside source. If you are ever in any doubt, never open the link or download the attachment. You could always call the source to see if they are who they say they are. For a bank or other source, search for their contact number on Google rather than calling any numbers that are included within the email.

Another way to prevent an attack is to use an antivirus programme that is able to scan files before they are downloaded, and also block any installations that may contain malware. Particularly those that are hidden, and that you didn’t even know were being downloaded.

Should you pay the ransom request?

Ransomware hackers will request a payment, usually in bitcoins in order to release the files that they have control of. Bitcoins are a digital currency, which is used to make payments across the cyber world with minimum tracking and no fees.

As a victim of a Ransomware attack, you may feel tempted to pay the amount requested by the hackers. Particularly if the files that have been shut down are important to your business or contain your personal information.

However, it is important that you do not pay the amount that they are requesting. Not only does this encourage the attackers to make further attacks, but there is also no guarantee that you will receive the files back that they have been able to access.

Rather than making a payment, the best thing to do is try to restore the affected files from a back up. If you do not have a back up, or it does not appear to be working, then there are a number of tools out there that you can use to try and decrypt the hacked files and recover them.

Ransomware attacks can be concerning, but you should remember that you can protect yourself, and make sure that your files are properly protected. This is a relatively easy process, and with some common sense and careful consideration with regards to what you download, you can make sure that the hackers are less likely to attack your business files and data.

 

Top five tips for managing money in a start-up

Most small businesses fail for one simple reason: running out of money. This can happen for a host of reasons and, whilst demoralising, will always be a risk for new start-ups.

However, you can significantly reduce your risk of being left without sufficient funds by managing money intelligently. Every business is different, but staying in control of finances is vital across the board; below are some tips for making the most of your funds.

  1. Be in the Know

Although it sounds obvious, knowing as much as possible about your inflow and expenditures is the single best way to make prudent financial decisions. Ensure that you keep track of your cash flow from the outset – in the early stages, it might be worth investing in accountancy software such as Quickbooks. This means that when it comes to growing your business, and your cash flow becomes more complex, you already have a system in place to keep track of things.

Alternatively, you could make use of software which you may already have – Microsoft Excel or something similar – to create a simple spreadsheet for recording monthly income and outgoings. Remember to find out how your business will be taxed as early on as possible, to avoid any surprises or headaches in the future.

If you intend to cover setup costs through a lender, you should carefully research your options. Using price comparison sites can be a great way to shop around, and decide which lender might be right for your business. Bank loans are not your only choice, though – your first port of call might be investment from friends and family, and you could also consider crowdfunding. Ensure that you have planned your debt management strategy in the long term when considering your choice of lender.

  1. Plan ahead

Successful entrepreneurs think carefully about the future; it is a good idea to produce forecasts for your business in its early stages. These predict your business’s income and outgoings for up to three years, since trying to predict any further ahead than this is generally unhelpful. These forecasts should be regularly updated as circumstances change, so you always have a good idea about what to expect in the near future.

These predictions should help you to plan your budget. This should be done carefully, and take into account all costs associated with your start-up, no matter how small – small expenses can quickly add up. When budgeting in the early stages of your business, fixed expenses, such as employees and office space, could be a good area in which to make savings. For example your budget might constrain the salary available for any staff, but this could be supplemented by offering equity in the company, or other perks depending on the nature of your business. You could also consider offering part-time work at this stage, or working from home if this is possible to save the expense of office space.

  1. Set some money aside

When your business is thriving, it can be tempting to re-invest all profits straight back into it for further growth, but this is not always the best strategy. Instead, it is sensible to set aside a portion of your profits so that, should the start-up falter, you have some funds available to cover running costs without taking on debt. Ideally, this monetary cushion will cover three to six months’ running costs.

Remember to allow enough money in your budget to give yourself a decent wage. You might feel obliged to pay yourself an uncomfortably small amount, so more of your profits are freed to grow the business, but this is not the best move. You will be less able to focus on your start-up if you are preoccupied with personal financial worries.

  1. Set realistic goals

Goal-setting is key to most endeavours, and establishing a business is no exception. Your goals should be realistic, measurable, and have a timeframe. They could be anything from a profit target, to reaching a product development goal, to getting a marketing campaign off the ground, as long as they are achievable and will help your start-up to grow.

Setting a series of smaller goals, rather than relying on one larger vision for your company, makes it easier to stay motivated, and will also let you keep better track of how things are progressing.

  1. Be prepared for the worst

Having a financial back-up plan is always advised. If you are currently employed as well as managing your start-up, ensure that you do not leave your job until your profits can comfortably replace your wages. Having an alternative source of income is a good back-up – if possible, you might consider going part-time as you transition from employee to business owner. The funds set aside from profitable periods should also be treated as a back-up, and could keep your business afloat during challenging periods.

Good money management

Taking the time to carefully plan, having a safety net, and always being aware of exactly what you have are simple ways to give a new business its best chance of succeeding. As common-sense as some of these tips seem, they are worth bearing in mind as you go forward with your start-up.

5 smart methods of investing your money

There are a few investment methods that you should know about. If you would like to minimize risk and lose as little money as possible when you are making investments, then you should try and utilize these investment methods. You will have a much higher rate of success when you are investing your money, thanks to these various methods. All of the most successful investors utilize these methods in one way or another, whenever they are handling their own money. And even financial advisors would recommend that you try out these business investment methods as well.

  1. Money managers make the investment decisions – It could be wiser to turn over your investment decisions to someone that knows better than you. Money or investment managers may be your best option when it comes to wisely investing your money. These kinds of professionals are extremely savvy at knowing which types of business properties to invest it. So they may be able to help you make a lot of money through investments.
  1. Consult a financial advisor – Another professional that you can turn to when you want to invest your money is a financial advisor. These kinds of advisors may enable you to know about your assets and business properties more. And they can guide you into making smart investments with your money. Listening to a financial advisor could be a smart investment method. Try to seek counsel from a seasoned financial advisor. They may be able to offer some insights that could help you in your investments.
  1. Conduct market analysis yourself – If you would like to make all of the investment decisions yourself, you should take the time to research your business and investment prospects. You should conduct analysis and try to come up with a projected plan for your upcoming business and investment properties. It would also be better if you could plan out the long-term prospects of your investments as well. You could also look for quick win opportunities by working with an SEO Consultant who can provide you with the best advice on what keywords can potentaily drive business to your website quickly.

  1. Hire someone to co-manage your investments – You could also try another kind of investment method, wherein you co-manage your investments with someone else. Having the help of another investor could boost your chances of finding and making smarter investments. And your chances of making better investments will also increase if you co-manage with an experienced investor. Both of the investors could take the time to do the analysis, make the investments, and monitor the progress of those investments as well.
  1. Look for your mentor – Starting up a business or shall we say investing your money is very risky. Though there are so many ways to succeed in what business or finance industry you want to invest in, you will need someone that can help you especially if you are new to it. As mentioned, either way can be risky, but with the support of an expert in business, he or she can help in saving your money before it will be put to waste. There are a lot of successful entrepreneurs out there that gone a long way in business or finance industry, all of them walked the same path to become successful it is not easy but it is worth it, and you too might need to hear from them to help you discover what investment you should take.

So here are the five methods you should take advantage to prevent you from wasting your money. These methods will give you a lower risk of losing in investing and business industry, just always remember that investing is not always earning, somehow you will lose, but at the end of the tunnel, there’s the pot of gold waiting as long as you’re passionate about what you do.