Parliament’s online security strategy

By | Business
Online retail sales in the UK will rise by another 17 percent this year. Image credit – www.flickr.com/photos/plantronicsgermany

The government have announced a new scheme to help consumers and businesses stay safe online. The Cyber Essentials scheme provides clarity to organisations on what good cyber security practice is and sets out the steps they need to follow to manage cyber issues.

Once organisations have been independently assessed against the best practice recommendations they can apply for the Cyber Essentials award. This will demonstrate to potential customers that the businesses have achieved a certain level of cyber security and take the matter seriously. The new scheme is also applicable to other organisations including universities, charities and public bodies.

The Managing Director of Information Assurance for SMEs Consortium Ltd (IASME), David Booth, said, “We welcome this initiative, which fills an important gap in enabling organisations, particularly SMEs, to understand the most important technical aspects of cyber security protection. It fits nicely into IASME’s wider governance approach to information assurance for small companies.”

The scheme is funded by the government through the government lead National Cyber Security Programme. By making UK businesses safer in cyberspace, as well as enabling businesses to benefit from demonstrating their effectiveness in managing cyber issues, it helps to meet a key element of the UK government’s Cyber Security Strategy.

Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said, “Cyber Essentials is an easy to use cost effective way to help businesses and the public sector protect themselves against the possibly issues of operating online. Organisations will now be able to easily demonstrate they are cyber safe reassuring their clients, boosting confidence and profitability. I encourage all organisations to adopt it.”

Recently, we have seen a new issue, a bug, called Heartbleed; it affects web servers running a package called OpenSSL. This government scheme is an important new step, as online retail sales in the UK will rise by another 17 percent this year. This is despite 2013 being a record year as British consumers turned to smartphones and tablets to do their shopping. It is crucial that the general public feel safe online otherwise they would decrease the amount they shop using the internet.

The majority of retailers and some service providers see their largest sales figures during the winter holidays. The increasing use of smartphones and tablets is pushing these numbers higher. Gone are the days of running around on lunch hours; consumers can now buy their holiday gifts or hire a caterer from their phone, all while on the train home from work.

Click-and-collect has also see a dramatic rise in recent years becoming a key driver of sales, with 25 percent of online orders from a high street brand being collected in store. The acceleration in shopping habits has left some of the biggest names on the high street, such as Morrisons, nursing decreased Christmas sales. However, retailers with strong online operations such as John Lewis and Next enjoyed a rise in sales.

In October 2013, it accounted for around 10 percent of all retail sales in Britain, with an average weekly spend of just over £650million. The latest announcements from Waitrose and Tesco, who plan to develop their click and collect services at London Underground stations, demonstrates how retailers are striving to diversify their delivery services.

This continued rise in online shopping brings both opportunities and challenges for UK businesses. Having a diverse international customer base can help make businesses less vulnerable to fluctuations in one market, and increase the potential reach of products.

The rise of online and the need for a fast and reliable delivery processes allows consumers greater flexibility and choice with their online shopping. However, the increased ease of purchasing through mobile sites and the development of click and collect sites, continues to remove the need for consumers to visit the high street. With the high street operating in a challenging environment for several years now, retailers must consider ways to continue to be a destination of choice for consumers.

How high is your level of online security and would think about upgrading your current anti-virus software or teaching yourself about how you could improve your online security?

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