A lack of understanding about potential cyber dangers means small and medium sized businesses in North Wales are putting a third of their revenue at risk.
That’s the warning from internet security expert Henry Platten, a former policeman who is now patrolling the virtual world keeping businesses safe.
He will be the guest speaker at the next meeting of the Wrexham Business Professionals at the Catrin Finch Centre at Glyndwr University on Tuesday, March 24.
The group was established by local solicitors and accountants who collaborate on a non-competitive basis to promote the development of businesses, skills and employment opportunities for professional people.
The other keynote speaker will be Neil Ashbridge, the Bank of England’s Agent in Wales.
Mr Platten, who has also worked as a BBC journalist, set up the Flintshire based firm eTreble9 with wife, Danielle.
A great deal of their work involves helping firms in North Wales battle cyber threats.
The firm has also created revolutionary scheme to keep children safe online.
The eCadets scheme beat rival contenders from all over the UK to win first place in the category for Making the Internet a Safer Place at the prestigious Nominet awards.
According to Mr Platten, recent research by the Cyber Streetwise organisation had revealed that small and medium sized companies are putting 32 per cent of their revenue at risk because they are falling for some of the common misconceptions around cyber security.
That, he said, leaves them vulnerable to losing valuable data and suffering both financial and reputational damage.
Worryingly, two thirds of SMEs didn’t consider their business to be vulnerable, and only 16 per cent felt that improving their cyber security was a top priority for 2015.
Mr Platten added: “There are many benefits from using social media safely and appropriately – it’s a brilliant tool for marketing, recruiting and so on.
“But going blindly into social media and integrating it into your business without being aware of some of the risks beforehand can be potentially dangerous.
“Without being aware, sometimes people can disclose commercially sensitive information that they may not wish to.
“There is a risk of being hacked via social media accounts when people bring their own devices into work and then integrate with the work system.
“There are also viruses that can easily be spread through social media and there are reputational risks.
“One misplaced sentence on Facebook or Twitter can cause an organisation untold damage in terms of crisis management.
“Businesses are at risk of being victims of crime as well with fraud being one of the top ones.
“Potentially, if your cyber security isn’t up to scratch, thieves can hack in and steal money from your bank account.
“One of the ways that that works through is that the email account you have connected to your social media account.
“If that’s the same one that you run your life with people who find it very easy to do the hacking can very easily work out your email account attached to your social media account.
“Generally you will share some personal information through your social media account which can be used to identify your password and then they simply go through the password process, match it up to your email account.
“As soon as they’re in, they see your entire life, who you bank with, your home address where your deliveries are sent.
“So an easy way around that is if you have a social media account, have a separate email account that is just for social media and nothing else.
“Data now is the most valuable commodity in the world. It’s more valuable than gold or oil.
“In looking at identity theft and fraud, small businesses are the prime target because cyber criminals know they don’t have huge internet teams working 24/7 keeping them safe.
“That’s why it’s important for small businesses to know how to use the internet and social media it in the right way.
“If you understand the risks then you can protect yourself, you can get the maximum benefit without any of the danger coming along as well to make sure that your business can run in a consistent and a smooth way without any avoidable hiccups.”
Wrexham Business Professionals spokesman Simon Griffiths, of Chartered Accountants Guy Walmsley, said: “We are delighted that Neil Ashbridge and Henry Platten have agreed to share their expert views.
“Neil will be giving us a brief update on the latest economic position while Henry will be giving us guidance about how to use the internet safely and appropriately.”