By Murray Goldschmidt >>

NO BUSINESS is safe when it comes to cyber-attacks, and this is what small business fails to realise.

Most attacks are focused on a positive monetary outcome for the cyber-attacker. Often the secondary target within a business is the personal information of individuals (customers, partners, suppliers and acquaintances that are usually kept in mail systems) as this data is used to identify the attackers’ next set of potential victims.

Unfortunately, the size of the target is often irrelevant.  Cyber-attacks are an asymmetric threat.  This means that the cost to develop or execute the attack can be very small but the impact resulting from an attack can be extraordinarily high – including monetary losses.  

Many (most) small businesses generally have not taken the time to consider the risk of a cyber breach, nor the impact to their business. Many are of the mind that it won’t happen to them and are under the impression that attacks only target large enterprises. 

In fact, the opposite is usually true, with larger businesses implementing more security controls to protect their IT systems and data repositories. As a result, today’s attacker finds it easier to target smaller organisations with less robust security in place.

PHISHING

Some of the top digital dangers facing small business start with a technique candidly called ‘phishing’ in cyber-speak.

A phishing attack uses an email, instant message, text message or even a phone call requesting the user to take an action, usually to click a button – which starts the download of malicious malware – or to trick the user into sharing passwords and other user details.

When it comes to phishing attacks, there are many different techniques that the attacker might use. These include ‘spear phishing’ which is a more targeted attack to a specific individual with a specific objective.

A ‘whaling’ attack often targets C-level executives (or business owners) and these types of attacks can often be hard to identify – as the attacker has customised them to appeal to a specific individual.

With the increase in phishing attacks the question then is how can you identify such an attack?

Many emails may appear to come from a reliable address with all the details of a known associate which makes it difficult to differentiate between a phishing email and a normal one.

Luckily there are often tell-tale signs to help identify a phishing email.

Always look out for an email with a generic greeting as well as one requesting personal information. If an email is coming unexpectedly from a known associate, it should be treated as suspicious until validated as genuine.

Tip Don’t open attachments or click links received via email or social media from unknown individuals or ones requesting you to update or verify your details.

MALWARE, RANSOMWARE

Phishing attacks may lead to the accidental downloading of Malware – which is malicious software, written with the intent to do harm to data, devices or to people.

Attackers use malware to perform their actions – including by remote control – and to monetise the attack.

Examples include searching for and stealing confidential information such as usernames and passwords, internet banking credentials or installing further programs without your knowledge to extend their attack.

One particularly nasty form of malware is ransomware that takes over your computer, encrypts your data and then demands a ransom in order to release access to the computer and the data.

Tip - Update your security software, change passwords and back up data regularly. Store your backups offsite and offline. Ensure you have the ability to recover by testing re-installation from backup.

CONNECTING TO E-MAIL

Phishing may also pass users details, passwords and other data to the attacker. A very common attack, that uses these details, allows the attacker to remotely connect to the e-mail system of a business.

Once connected, the attacker reads incoming and outgoing emails – when they see one that relates to the paying of funds they immediately send another email to the recipient explaining that they had made a mistake along with a request to send the funds to an alternate bank account which the attacker strips at their leisure.

Cybercrime can create issues for small business such as causing damage to their reputation, result in loss of assets and incur expenses to fix the damage caused.

These attacks could mean the difference between cutting a profit or going under.

Tip Keep your computer patched and up-to-date including with the latest anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

BEST DEFENCE: COMMON SENSE

The good news is that these and other attacks can often be thwarted through the implementation of common sense processes, appropriately configured IT systems and a small number of security controls (something that increases your security posture).

For instance – it may be hard to avoid being infected by ransomware – but simple to offset the risk to your business.

Ensure that you keep regular backups of your key data, ensuring that at least one up-to-date backup is not connected to the environment – and is preferably off-site. Test the process from time to time and make sure that it continues to deliver.

Hijacking of mail accounts can often be offset by deploying multifactor / two factor authentication for all users – it is free these days through most cloud email offerings. Well configured, and patched systems are also important when defending against cyber-attacks.

Moving on from an attack and building up resilience for the organisation is a very important aspect for any small business to undertake.

An important element to this process is to develop a security centric culture. Implementing a security awareness program within your organisation could be the difference between a successful attack or avoiding an attack that would have resulted in data loss.

Train your staff to understand the potential threats to your business and industry as well as keeping data safe. Human error is the most common factor that leads to a successful attack.

Tip - Use safe behaviour online and always stay informed and updated on the latest threats.

In today's world, it’s not a case of ‘if’ your business will be hit, but more a case of ‘when’. By keeping your organisation prepared and allocating resources and funds in training your staff as well as implementing policies and procedures you will be on the right path with your cyber security.

Warding off cyber threats does require an investment of time and budget, but the impact to your business will be far less than dealing with the effects of a breach.

www.senseofsecurity.com.au

Murray Goldschmidt is the chief operating officer of Sense of Security.

 

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THE REGIONAL Economic Development (RED) Toolbox has evolved to help business and all levels of government consider Australia’s most challenging economic issue: the future of work and jobs.

An offshoot of the RED Toolbox called the ‘ED Toolbox’ is being developed to muster intelligence and action around this crucial question – and it is designed to involve educators, colleges and schools in tandem with business leaders.

“This is a problem the entire world is facing and the ED Toolbox is designed to help Australia come to grips with it and develop collaborative solutions and pathways with the help of our platform,” RED Toolbox CEO John Sheridan said.  

“We have been researching and speaking about digital disruption and what it will mean to Australia’s economic development for more than 20 years and have developed these national collaboration platforms – first the Manufacturing Toolbox and now The RED Toolbox and its derivative the ED Toolbox – to help Australians navigate these challenges.

“These are digital platforms designed to help Australians work together to manage the challenges brought on by the digital revolution.”

Mr Sheridan said business and government remained largely bewildered – and in many cases fearful – of the growth and impact of artificial intelligence (AI) systems,  robotisation, the internet of things (IoT), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), blockchain, biometrics, mobile apps, remote sensing, three-dimensional (3D) printing, cyber-security, drones, nanotechnology, big data, cloud services, building information modelling (BIM), cryptocurrency, identity management, facial recognition and social media.

The huge digital organisations that are utilising and developing these systems – often at a pace too rapid for regulators – including Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Uber, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple are also a huge area of economic concern. Governments around the world are struggling with their impacts on communities, local businesses, legislation, tax receipts and  economies.

“These are giant problems that governments and the general public are only now starting to realise provide both threats and opportunities,” Mr Sheridan said. “The big question on everyone’s lips is, what does this mean for jobs and how will our economies adapt and develop?”

ED TOOLBOX FOCUS

Mr Sheridan said The RED Toolbox was progressing steadily as a collaboration platform, but through discussions developing among its Groups certain issues were clearly taking precedence.

Various industry experts, business leaders and many educators were seeking a way of taking action in preparing young people to cope with a new employment paradigm, brought about by the digital revolution.

“So we started work on what we started calling the ‘ED Toolbox for schools’ a resource for students, teachers and parents – and Australia’s education leadership,” Mr Sheridan said. “The ED Toolbox is designed to deliver a wide spectrum of insights, facts and figures, dashboards, charts, tables, graphs, case studies and videos illustrating the technology impacts across all 19 industry sectors and 500 business categories.

“Technology delivers threats and opportunities, but its impacts vary widely for different business categories and industry sectors. With the right knowledge, students, parents and teachers can plan the future more effectively.”

EXPLAINING BLOCKCHAIN

The real value of taking this approach became obvious as The RED Toolbox concurrently began to embark on a series of presentations to help Australian government and business leaders understand the impacts of blockchain technology.

The events have been developed in alliance with Consensys, headed up globally by Joseph Lubin. ConsenSys is a leader in utilising Ethereum – which has its own crypto-currency – to develop blockchain solutions for managing large enterprises and projects.

The RED Toolbox has been conducting seminars in partnership with ConsenSys to assist government and business leaders to understand the value blockchain technologies can bring to them.

Discussions generated from those seminars have continued through the RED Toolbox groups, blog posts and comments.

The RED Toolbox-ConsenSys seminars have been presented in Australia by ConsenSys Global Solutions business strategy manager, Stephen Alexander, who has been a long-time RED Toolbox user and advocate. He advises governments around the world on the adoption of digital technologies for beneficial community results.

“The ConsenSys consulting arm helps governments, enterprises and NGOs (non-government organisations) across the globe to build, test, and deploy public and private blockchain solutions that capture the advantages and efficiencies of Ethereum-based systems,” Mr Alexander said.

“ConsenSys is a trusted blockchain advisor and implementation partner to Fortune 500 companies such P&G and Microsoft, as well as global government agencies such as the Smart Dubai Office, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the European Union Blockchain Observatory and Forum.

“It is so important that our government and business leaders – and our educators – understand the way blockchain is going to positively impact business and beyond.”

The RED Toolbox has already conducted seminars to explain blockchain and its applications to groups including the resources industry Growth Centres, several major councils, the Department of Agriculture and a major agricultural association.

“We discussed blockchain and its value in supply chains for asset tracking, preventing counterfeiting and how and where smart contracts fit into the larger supply chain picture,” Mr Sheridan said.

“We discussed blockchain and licensing, identity management, authentication, verification, biosecurity and smart contracts.

“We discussed blockchain and IP protection. We discussed blockchain and the citizen.

“We discussed blockchain and the needs of the citizen facing departments in state and local government.

“We discussed examples of how blockchain is being used by governments around the world for land registry, licensing, ID, supply chains, commerce and so on.

“We discussed control of destiny – and then we discussed immediate opportunities and next steps.

“We are now exploring the value of blockchain solutions to agriculture, defence industries, creative industries, indigenous business, medical and health, construction, disability services and aged care,” he said.

“In some meetings, as well as talking about blockchain, we also discussed the future of work and jobs. Though both subjects are not directly connected, they are high on the list of the ‘wicked problems and what to do about them’ that we now face across all regions and sectors in Australia today. And these subjects are important to the whole world

“Collaboration is the key to success, survival and sustainability,” Mr Sheridan said. “We have much to learn and we can all learn from each other – and that is where the RED Toolbox and the ED Toolbox come in.”

www.theredtoolbox.org

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FRASERS Hospitality, a global boutique lifestyle hotel operator, has boosted operational productivity by up to 80 percent and gained better decision-making insights since it deployed management systems on mobile devices across its Australian properties.

The digital transformation project began in 2015 with the deployment of Infor cloud solutions at Frasers Hospitality’s Brisbane property Capri by Fraser and has been extended across all of Fraser Hospitality’s Australian facilities in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Frasers Hospitality Australia IT manager Howard Phung said the transition to the Infor HMS began as a reaction to customer expectations.

“Our Australian customers and staff were becoming more mobile and they expected seamless experiences across channels and devices, as well as access to integrated next-gen payment technologies,” Mr Phung said.

“We needed an integrated, agile and flexible platform to bring our employee- and customer-centric vision to life. 

“Our aim was to optimise check-in efficiency, eliminate paperwork, integrate next-gen payment platforms, and ensure a high level of personal data security as compliance requirements were growing,” Mr Phung said.

He said Frasers Hospitality’s previous systems experienced inefficiencies as the organisation was using separate platforms. This set-up did not allow seamless communication across channels and devices, sharing of information or integration with third-party systems.  

SEAMLESS GOAL

As seamless check-in was at the centre of attention for both staff and customers, Mr Phung said, Frasers Hospitality worked in collaboration with Infor to deploy the Infor Mobility solution “that would deliver an unparalleled experience”.

Mr Phung said he and his teams were conscious that all this had to take place in a seamless way in a complex regulatory environment.

“Security is a major concern in our industry, especially when it comes to managing mobile data and payments,” Mr Phung said.

“Using Infor solutions was instrumental in ensuring we were delivering mobile and payment features with a high level of security and data privacy, to comply with Australian and international regulations.”

Frasers Hospitality’S mobile solutions have resolved that issue, being fully compliant with the PCI, Mandatory Data Breaches Notification and upcoming General Date Protection Regulation (GDPR) regulations.

BUSINESS INTEL AT WORK

Mr Phung said Infor’s business intelligence (BI) capability has enabled Frasers Hospitality to personalise and customise its customer-facing features at any point in time, depending on what each customer expects.

Pioneered in Australia, Frasers digital strategy is now being rolled out in China and the UK, where the Infor solutions have now also been implemented, he said.

“Our vision is to be 100 percent paperless by late 2019 and thanks to Infor, we are on the right track to achieve this and make our digital transformation permanent,” Mr Phung said. 

Using the power of rich data, he said Frasers Hospitality teams are able to build dashboards that can inform smart decision making in real-time, and create accurate forecast models, ultimately reducing operational and structural costs and delivering a better service to guests.

Infor Asia-Pacific vice-president for hospitality, Eric Wong said mobility, next-gen payments and compliance requirements were challenging many service-based industries.

“Frasers Hospitality is a great example of how using cloud-based mobile technologies and integrated platforms can help improve a business’ bottom line, improve staff and customers’ overall experience, while meeting data security and privacy compliance requirements,” Mr Wong said.

PRACTICAL IN PRACTICE

Frasers Hospitality staff have embraced the new systems, which have improved their working environments, as have customers, according to Mr Phung.

He said since its roll-out, the housekeeping app has helped improve operational productivity by 80 percent and staff no longer have to resort to heavy paper-based administrative processes.

“They can use mobile phones or tablets to organise daily activities and have all customer information sitting in the one platform,” Mr Phung said. “This means housekeeping staff are able to view all customer data, receive updates and manage all administrative and housekeeping requests in real-time.”

The new digital approach has has achieved a primary objective: speedier check-ins.

“Customers walking to a Frasers Hospitality property can check-in quickly at the tip of their fingers,” Mr Phung said.

He said with the integration of Infor E Reg Card solution, Frasers Hospitality Australia shifted to a digital registration card system, while the roll-out of HPP technology enabled the organisation to offer secure ‘click-to-pay’ link options to its clients, across all devices.

Now Frasers Hospitality offers Australian customers visiting its properties many integrated payment options, including Apple Pay and, in the near future, AliPay, PayPal and others to come.

Frasers Hospitality operates Capri by Fraser in Brisbane, Fraser Suites Perth, Fraser Place Melbourne and Fraser Suites Sydney. In 2014 Frasers Centrepoint Limited added the iconic Sofitel Sydney Wentworth, the city’s first international hotel and one of the most recognised five-star hotels in Australia, to its portfolio of assets,

Infor builds business software for hospitality and other specific industries in the cloud, operating in more than 170 countries.

www.infor.com

www.frasershospitality.com

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SMALLER businesses that do not keep up with digital opportunities to connect with their target markets run a high risk of going under.

That is the view of  SponsoredlinX founder and CEO Ben Bradshaw whose company is now one of the foremost advisors on digital marketing techniques in Australia.

“I am still surprised at just how many small businesses consider their internet strategies to be separate from their business marketing strategy and, indeed their overall business plan,” Mr Bradshaw said. 

“Internet marketing does not exist separately to your other business lead generation and customer service models. It should co-exist and complement every other marketing exercise you do.”

SponsoredlinX has observed three clear digital trends for small-to-medium business owners to keep abreast of: voice search, machine learning and user-generated content.

VOICE SEARCH

When Siri became a fixture voice search and therefore voice search traffic exploded over the next few years, however the power and prevalence of both Alexa and Google Home have been surprising.

“It’s essentially changed the way people are looking for things online,” Mr Bradshaw said. “By 2020 it’s expected that half of all searches will be done verbally.

“The convenience of voice search mixed with the steady improvement of the tech makes it a key SEO factor for our SEO clients. This means pushing more long tail keywords as well as including FAQs to websites.

“Okay, Google, who’s the best digital marketing agency in the country?”

MACHINE LEARNING

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has exploded in the last 12 months, integrating into most of our lives without us knowing, according to Mr Bradshaw.

“Just a quick recap, the term ‘AI’ refers to a device or software that involves computer intelligence,” he said. “This can include machine learning, chatbots and applied propensity models just to name a few.

“This technology has slipped into our world and very quickly become a necessity for various industries, including digital marketing. In fact, you’ve probably already interacted with AI in some form on a regular basis.

“AI is also becoming more and more prevalent in marketing, in fact half of marketers in Australia are using AI in some shape or form and a quarter plan to pilot it in the next two years.

“There’s a range of AI tech currently in the market that is effective for marketing across the customer service lifecycle. Be on the lookout for more brands embracing tools like chatbots to deliver better website experience, smart content curation or predictive customer service to name but a few.

“Big data is also becoming more accessible to the business of every size thanks to AI developments. There are plenty of advertising platforms and marketing outreach methods now allowing businesses to access big data about their customers- better allowing them to understand and target their audience.”

USER-GENERATED CONTENT

“We all crave authenticity from the brands we follow, and now businesses of all shapes and sizes can enjoy the benefits of user-generated content,” Mr Bradshaw said.

“User-generated content includes photos, videos, text or blogs created by a customer that mentions or includes information or opinions about a brand or product. It’s the digital equivalent of word of mouth marketing and is seen to be a brand endorsement from people just like themselves.

“You’ll find user-generated content most effective across social media, it’s a cost-effective and easy way to earn trust.

“User-generated content can even be applied to paid advertising and promotions with approvals. Polished advertisements are so 2017, by leveraging user-generated content and utilising it in native advertising, an audience is more likely to pay attention.”

Mr Bradshaw beleives there is a real risk small business leaders will find their brands, products and services will be left behind “if they don't get their act together”.

However, Mr Bradshaw goes acknowledged that there was a huge opportunity for small businesses to capitalise on technological innovation and provide that 'special something'.

"Small businesses need to focus on what's important for their customers in this new digital age, and offer that, together with personalised customer service," Mr Bradshaw said.                                                                                                            

According to research, following a website, consumers think social media is the next most important tech investment for small businesses.

"Ensuring small businesses have a good website and social media profile means they not only protect their customers, but gain further reach and opportunities for referrals, so they thrive for generations to come," Mr Bradshaw said.

"While small businesses have a way to go in adopting technology that meets consumer demand, I believe that Australians have a crucial part to play to ensure we have thriving small business communicates into the future.”

www.sponsoredlinx.com.au

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