Why Your Salespeople Could Cost You Millions in a Cyber Attack

David Southern | Date: Jun 20, 2017 10:00:00 AM

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Cyber security for sales people must be a crucial priority for all businesses that want to protect themselves from cyber attacks and other IT vulnerabilities

why-your-salespeople-could-cost-you.jpgSMEs often think they’re less likely to be victims of cyber attacks and other IT crimes because criminals will have bigger fish to fry. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. One in four SMEs has reported a breach in the past 12 months according to UK government figures and many more may be at risk. Recent research suggests that as many as 9 in 10 SMEs could be vulnerable to attack.

The risks are higher for businesses with sales staff operating in the field – cyber security for salespeople is a major headache. It’s challenging enough to protect your IT infrastructure when it’s contained within one location, but even more difficult when your staff are on the move and working on a range of devices such as laptops, tablets and mobiles. And sales staff are likely to have exactly the sort of information criminals are keen to get their hands on – the precious and sensitive customer data they collect all day every day.

The average SME hit by a breach last year spent £3,000 rectifying the problem according to the Federation of Small Businesses, but the true costs are much higher once you take into account loss of customer goodwill, reputational damage and possibly even legal or regulatory action.

It’s therefore crucial to make cyber security for salespeople a priority, to train your sales teams to protect themselves – and your business – against attack. The good news is that you can substantially reduce your vulnerability, by taking a series of relatively simple precautions:

  • Protect mobile devices and laptops
    It’s all too easy for criminals to steal devices, so sales staff should never let them out of sight – never leave them in the car or even in a hotel safe, for example. Most phones and tablets come with a feature that allows you to track them remotely from another device – similar software is available for laptops – so make sure this is switched on. And all devices should be password-protected and have encryption software installed, to make it difficult to access the data if the worst does happen.
  • Install up-to-date security
    Any device used by your sales staff should have up-to-date anti-virus software, web filtering and firewall protection. This applies to personal as well as business devices.
  • Steer clear of public wi-fi networks
    It’s easy for cyber attackers to breach the wi-fi networks routinely installed in public spaces, including hotels, conference centres, restaurants and coffee shops, putting any device logged on to the network at risk. Sales staff should therefore avoid using such networks wherever possible – if there is no trusted network alternative, they must at least refrain from using public wi-fi for sensitive activities.
  • Embrace password hygiene
    Strong passwords using multi-characters offer crucial protection for devices and systems. They should be changed regularly and different passwords should be used for each device. Processes such as two-step authentication, where the user has to follow up the password with a code delivered to their mobile device, provide further protection.
  • Make sure emails are encrypted
    Email is a key tool for sales staff and also a favoured line of attack for criminals. All your staff’s email systems should be encrypted. Also, train your staff to be aware of threats such as phishing. Detail such as log-ins and passwords should never be communicated in an email.
  • Avoid public computers
    There may be times when your sales staff have to use a public computer for some reason. If so, make sure they never use such facilities to share sensitive information. Take advantage of the private browsing tools available on most browsers and never use ‘remember me’ or ‘save password’ features.
  • Don’t use removable devices. USB sticks and other removable devices are often responsible for introducing malware and viruses to business networks – even USBs handed out at conferences have been found to carry infections. Sales staff should never plug a removable device into their own machines without having it properly checked first.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Sales staff using their devices in public need to be wary of snoopers and eavesdroppers. Keep screens angled away from onlookers, input passwords only when you’re sure you’re not being observed, and think before you speak when making calls.

Taking these steps will massively improve cyber security for sales people, even if it doesn’t absolutely guarantee protection. The key is to keep sales staff informed and up to date about what’s required – make sure all staff are trained on these basic principles, communicate your policies regularly, and offer practical support where necessary. If you get cyber security for sales people right on an ongoing basis, your business will be far less vulnerable.

Takeaways:

  • Your business is highly vulnerable to cyber attack.
  • Your sales teams in the field are especially vulnerable to cyber attacks and need protecting.
  • Taking some very simple precautions will hugely reduce the risk of your sales people suffering a cyber attack or breach.
  • You should train your salespeople to protect themselves from cyber attacks.

Find out how SME sales people should be making best use of IT. Download: Increase Your Revenue By Over 40%: The Business Leader’s Guide to Sales and IT

Download: Increase Your Revenue By Over 40% with IT

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