There is an issue which many startups fail to address satisfactorily. That is security.
Often it is something which merely falls by the wayside in the day-to-day hustle and bustle of growing a business, and is only brought to the forefront when some breach occurs. If you are lucky, this breach will be a mere inconvenience, but there is always the danger that it could prove to be much more sinister, and carry major implications for you and the future of your business.
Dealing with the security issues that might impact your startup should be one of your top priorities; there is little room for complacency, especially now that data, online assets, and private information are so vulnerable to opportunistic and malicious attacks.
But do not forget, that whilst cyber-related threats are of major and growing concern, the traditional dangers still remain.
It will take a broad and creative approach to ensure that your start-up is as protected as possible.
To help you in the battle, here are some aspects of operations which pose potential security issues, and some of the actions you can take to neutralise the threat.
Staff ID Cards
These have been a normal part of life for workers within larger businesses for decades, but startups and growing businesses seem somewhat complacent when it comes to personnel security issues. Thus many do not prioritise things like staff ID cards which can actually have some significant security benefits for you, your business and your staff.
Fortunately, these days this is actually not that hard to do. You can easily buy the printers, blanks and inks that you need to produce your own ID and membership cards from Digital ID.
It is relatively easy to come up with a design for your staff identification cards. You can do it using Microsoft Word, Photoshop or a similar software package. Designing your own ID cards will only take a few minutes, which will save you the cost of having to pay a designer to do it for you.
Taking care of the design yourself is also better for security. It means that only you have access to the design making it harder for a fraudster to get access to the design and make fake ID cards, which could then be used to gain access to your premises.
Limiting of customer data.
This is perhaps the most pressing security issue to face the modern startup and especially so if a degree of your operations takes place online.
There are of course any number of complex and comprehensive ways to protect both your own data, and that of your customers, but on a more basic level there are some ‘tactics’ you can employ to reduce the likelihood of a break, and minimize the potential damage should one occur.
For instance, collecting the minimum necessary personal information from your customers can reduce the amount of data which you need to protect. Remember that once in your possession, it is your responsibility to ensure that customer data is protected from hackers; thus the less that you have, the less you will be responsible for, the less hackers will see your start-up as a worthwhile prospect, and the less damage that could be done should you experience a breach in security.
Taking this kind of minimalist approach to your customer data, will simplify the process of protection, and allow you to spend more time focussed on other pressing matters such as helping your business to grow and thrive.
Training your employees
It is not enough that only those at the very top of your startup are well versed in security issues; it must be something which is bred into the culture of the business from the moment an employee first steps through your door. Promoting a healthy respect for security from the outset is a good way to ensure that your employees see such issues as merely part of their role, rather than an unnecessary annoyance or a waste of time and energy.
Indeed you and your employees are quite possibly the biggest security threat that your business will face; not because of malicious intent (not usually anyway) but because of simple human error. A lost file, a misplaced USB stick, a picture uploaded to social media showing sensitive information, an unwitting transferral of information without due diligence.
These are all preventable breaches of security which occur when people do not take proper precautions, or fail to appreciate the serious implications which such a transgression can have.
In addition to this you should train yourself and your staff to remain constantly vigilant when it comes to identifying potential breaches of security. In such situations time is of the essence, and the sooner you can identify and isolate a problem the better for everyone involved; so having staff which is regularly on the lookout for tell-tale signs of an attack, can give you a significant advantage in the long-run.
It will never be possible to remove human error in security entirely from your startup, but by training your staff appropriately, and instilling a sense of responsibility, you can hopefully manage to remove some of the risk.
Assessing physical security risks
Regardless of where your business is located, it is a really good idea to undertake a simple crime risk assessment of your premises. Whether you are based at your home, within a co-working space, or dedicated office you need to identify in what ways your business might be at risk of criminal activity. This could range from burglary to vandalism, to physical assaults on you or staff, whilst on or off premises.
Remember that the mere presence of a business within a location will immediately increase the chances that a crime will take place there. The reasons for this are pretty obvious when you think about it and can provide you with a checklist of things which require additional security protection.
For instance, many businesses have valuable equipment, large sums of cash, or high levels of stock on site which are a temptation for the criminal mind. These are things which must therefore, be dealt with and stored carefully to remove the incentive for criminality to take place.
Making sure that you and your staff have access to a safe, ensuring that staff are never left alone in an unlocked office, and keeping valuables out of site during the day and night are just a few basic ways that you can create a less tempting proposition for would-be criminals.
In addition, you need to consider the exterior of your premises to ensure the safety of staff and the business assets. Ask yourself some of the following questions to gain an appraisal of your exterior security situation.
Is the entrance / exit from your premises clearly visible within the surrounding area?
Is there night-time street lighting surrounding the area?
Is the area monitored by CCTV?
Are there licenced premises in close proximity to your building?
What is the general land use surrounding your building e.g. commercial / residential?
Is the area regularly patrolled by law enforcement officers?
Mi-IDEA Manchester Networking Event
27th Sep 2016
The teams from CISCO and Manchester Science Partnerships have teamed up to create Mi-IDEA, a post-accelerator designed to foster and nurture digital innovation in the North West of England.