Business Technology

Cyber Security, GDPR and SMEs – are the wrong questions being asked?

6 min read

26 November 2018

Joe Collinwood at Cysure explains how cyber security and GDPR starts with people and processes, not costly consultancy or complicated technology.

Even before GDPR came into effect in May 2018, there was concern over the inconvenience and financial burden that becoming compliant places on organisations.

It’s all very well for commentators and reports to recommend organisations allocate between 9% and 13% of IT budget to cyber security. But if there is no budget in the first place that advice becomes meaningless. 

What questions to ask?

In truth, are we asking the wrong questions when it comes to GDPR and cyber security in terms of SMEs? 

Asking a smaller business the size of its IT budget is not particularly relevant when the majority of companies work on a “break and fix” basis. 

The real question should be whether there are proper organisational policies and technical measures in place to secure the data of customers and employees?  Along with what measures are in place to stop staff doing what they shouldn’t be doing and therefore putting the organisation in danger of attack and non-compliance? 

The Data Protection Act states that appropriate technical and organisational measures should be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data. 

This is known as “Principle 7”. SMEs are therefore expected to have adopted Principle 7 and GDPR sits on top of it.

However, it can only be achieved through people and processes to ensure correct implementation.

Security controls

There is no single product that will provide a complete guarantee of security for any business. 

The recommended approach is to use a set of security controls that complement each other but will require ongoing support in order to maintain an appropriate level of security.  

There is a lot of misinformation out there about GDPR but what hasn’t been fairly represented are the business benefits of the new regulations.

The real driver for adopting new compliance principles should be to make businesses more efficient, secure and competitive.

Minimising complexity

The key points of GDPR are that businesses must have consent and an opt-in from customers that cannot be confusing. For example, an organisation’s policies must state precisely what data is being collected, what it will be used for and how long the company will store that data.

In essence, GDPR is about putting the power of data back in the hands of individuals, giving customers a better understanding of where their data is and what it’s being used for.

Organisations concerned about meeting compliance regulations could benefit from undertaking a Cyber Essentials (CE) or CE Plus certification route from The IASME Consortium Ltd guided by a virtual online security officer (VOSO) as part of an information security management system. 

This helps to manage the business safely, avoid cyber threats and become GDPR compliant.  

The benefit of this approach is that SMEs can take advantage of the expertise of online cyber security consultants at a fraction of the cost of a full-time in-house security specialist or a team of consultants.

The process can be broken down into a set of discrete actions providing an easy to follow, staged approach to compliance.

By taking away much of the time consuming administrative burden, a VOSO frees up management to focus on policies, procedures and employee training to create a cyber aware and compliant culture. 

Maximising opportunity

To become GDPR compliant organisations must have a comprehensive understanding of their data, which gives the opportunity to better understand their customers.

In order to comply with regulations, increasing data visibility across organisational silos, de-duping lists, and cleansing and mapping data are essential practices.

Organisations can improve data management by detecting and getting rid of redundant, obsolete and trivial files, after all, why take responsibility for something that has no business value.

With data cleaned up, employees can be more productive and efficient through working with accurate, easily searchable and accessible data. By improving data management, organisations can reduce risks while unlocking the true value within their data and improve performance.

Embracing change

Cyber security and GDPR compliance does not rest just with the IT department whether in-house or outsourced. It is everyone’s responsibility.

Small businesses can help employees comply with the new regulation and protect against data breaches by developing a comprehensive communication and training strategy.

Achieving safety and compliance doesn’t have to be a costly or complex undertaking. By utilising an online information security management system that incorporates Cyber Essentials, SMEs can navigate their way to security and look forward to the benefits of legislation through competitive differentiation and a new business culture that values customer privacy. 

It’s all a case of asking the right questions in the first place.

Joe Collinwood is CEO of Cysure.