Cyber Essentials - cyber security

Supply2Gov met with Cyber Essentials Consultant Tom McFadyen to discuss how micro businesses can get started with cyber security.

 

  1. Why is cyber security so important to small businesses?

Cyber security is important to small businesses – just look at the WannaCry attacks from last year.

WannaCry became headline news due to its impact on the NHS. The healthcare sector was crippled and staff lost hundreds of hours trying to fix the countless appointments that were lost. WannaCry was also a big headline grabber due to its global scale and connection to North Korea. One of the effects it should have had is to put cyber security in the spotlight.

But that isn’t the full story of course. 150 countries were attacked and all manner of different businesses, many of them small businesses, were affected that were not prepared for this type of attack. The main difference between the NHS and a micro business in this situation is that bigger organisations have the budget to handle the fallout from a cyber attack.

It’s not just a financial burden. If you are a micro business with just a handful of people working in your office and you are forced to waste days, management time and technical support time, that can have a big impact on your bottom line.

Nonetheless, now is a good time to remind people that smaller, low profile cyber attacks happen every single day and hit small businesses.

 

  1. Leading on from that, what types of attacks should a small business look out for?

WannaCry is a famous example of a ransomware attack where victims must pay a fee to unlock their data or prevent its publication. WannaCry attackers demanded to be paid in bitcoin.

There are all sorts of different attacks to look out for, one of which is phishing. This is when a user receives an email from an attacker who is claiming to be another individual. The attacker will be looking to get hold of your details.

Most recently, I received a phishing email from an attacker who was claiming to be Microsoft. The attacker wanted my email and login details – but as I said, this is just one example among many.

Look out for phishing emails and, if you do get an unsolicited email, think twice about why you are receiving that email. Anti-virus software should be helpful to tackle this.

 

  1. What other basic things can a small business do to reduce the risk of online threat?

Small businesses can learn from the mistakes of more experienced businesses. One of the stories that I wrote in 2017 was about MPs who would share their login details and passwords with members of staff and other employees. This is a cyber security “no no”.

The shocking thing about this story is that MPs appeared to be extremely blasé about sharing passwords when having a strong, secure password seems to be an obvious practice. The reality is many businesses and organisations are not as secure as you would think.

It is still extremely common for businesses to use “password” for their password, which makes their business incredibly vulnerable to attackers. If you want more information on how to create a secure password, you can Google “the fifty most obvious passwords” or “the most hacked passwords”.

The Government recommends is that users combine three unrelated words into a single password as it will provide more security. You should also update your passwords regularly.

 

  1. How can Cyber Essentials help small businesses achieve their cyber security goals?

If you were to go through the process and become Cyber Essentials certified, it would bring two main benefits.

First, you and your businesses’ customers will be better protected against attacks – you will become cyber secure against 80% of common cyber security threats. Your organisation will also be on its way in terms of preparation for GDPR which comes into effect in May.

Cyber Essentials does not completely set you up for the launch of this regulation, but it will contribute to your preparations.

Secondly, Cyber Essentials will protect your business from data theft, which, as I was saying earlier, can be extremely costly for small businesses. The amount of money and time your business can save by being more efficient with your cyber security is incredible.

The other aspect of cyber security is winning contracts. Perhaps your micro business wants to win work with the MOD. Currently MOD suppliers must have the certification to win work with them.

When you are tendering, cyber security is an area that the private and public sector will notice as everyone’s information is valuable to them. Organisations that are sharing data will not want to be attached to other businesses that are vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Whilst the MOD and Central Government mandate Cyber Essentials, many other public sector bodies don’t. However, as time goes on, it is likely that this will change. It is better to be prepared for that situation than to bury your head in the sand.

  1. What package is most suited for microbusinesses and sole traders?

We offer three separate packages.

First, the base level package which costs £300 (excluding VAT).  This package allows users to go through the Cyber Essentials process and lets you fill in the self-assessment questionnaire. Customers must pass all the sections to become Cyber Essentials certified.

There is also Fast Tracker Cyber Essentials certification which is £600 (excluding VAT). This allows the customer to become certified as soon as possible. Once the customer has passed the self-assessment questionnaire, they are guaranteed Cyber Essentials certification within 24 hours.

We also offer Cyber Essentials Plus which is £2500 (excluding VAT). This includes an onsite visit from our team where we will look at your cyber processes in depth and help you to improve in areas where you may be vulnerable.

The first two options are likely to be the most suitable for small and micro businesses. If you are a micro business getting started and not in a great hurry to achieve certification, it would probably make more sense to choose the first option as this is likely to be all that is required for low value tenders. Make sure you have this in place as it could help you to win contracts.

 

  1. How can a business get started with Cyber Essentials?

The scheme summary and sample self-assessment questionnaire are valuable resources.

I would recommend that you download both Cyber-Essentials-Scheme-Summary_supply2govdocuments in preparation for certification.

The scheme summary will give you an overview of Cyber Essentials which is great for beginners. The summary will tell you what Cyber Essentials Certification and why your business may need it.

Inside the summary you will find out what the five key controls of Cyber Essentials are and why they are important.

If you are interested in achieving Cyber Essentials certification, download the sample self-assessment questionnaire in advance, you can look at the kind of questions that you will need to answer. This means that you will be ready with the right information to hand when you purchase Cyber Essentials.

 

  1. How can I learn more about Cyber Essentials?

I would start by going on to the Supply2Gov website and clicking on Cyber Essentials.

You will find a tonne of information about the products available and you can download both the sample questionnaire and scheme summary, which I highly recommend any micro business or sole trader to read through.

We are also in the process of recording a webinar that will be embedded into the website and you can watch it in your own time.

In the future, we will also be doing a micro business based live webinar, which will discuss the process in more depth. This will be confirmed on the Supply2Gov website nearer the time.

If you have any questions about this or Cyber Essentials you can also contact me on info@cyberessentialsonline.co.uk.

I am also happy to answer any queries that you may have from this interview, just get in touch.

 

training tenders man pointing at tablet pc

Now is an excellent time for your business to start looking for training tenders.

During the Autumn Budget 2017 statement, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced that he was launching a historic partnership between government, the CBI and the TUC to set the strategic direction for a National Retraining Scheme.

The new scheme aims to boost digital skills and to support the expansion of the construction sector.

 

STEM Investment

The Chancellor’s plans include ensuring that the British workforce is equipped with the skills “they will need for the workplace of the future”. This means “more maths for everyone” and prioritising computer science training and education as he aims to triple the number of trained computer science teachers to 12,000.

To make this happen, the Government aims to work with industry specialists to create a new National Centre for Computing.

Google has welcomed the plans and has pledged a further £1 million in grants to train teachers. Obum Ekeke, Google’s Head of Computer Science Education Programmes for the UK and Africa has said that the new centre will help to ensure teachers “have the specialist training and support they need to educate the next generation of British computer scientists.”

 

How much is the Government investing?

Philip Hammond promised to “make a start immediately,” investing £30 million in the development of digital skills distance learning courses. This will allow people from across the country to learn wherever they are, and whenever they want.

 

technology training tenders_Supply2Gov

 

Why does the Government want to work with smaller businesses?

Smaller businesses can help bring the Government up to speed with technology. Micro and small businesses can provide the public sector with many benefits including local market knowledge, specialist skills, expertise, innovation and value for money.

During the Autumn Budget speech, Philip Hammond noted that UK could not build an economy fit for the future without supporting smaller businesses.

 

Training tenders for micro businesses

As the Government aims to invest heavily in STEM and in retraining workers for both the digital economy and the construction sector, it is possible that a number of low value training tenders may open up for micro businesses and sole traders to bid for.

If you would like to provide training services to public sector organisations, you can find training tenders for micro businesses and sole traders using Supply2Gov Tender Alerts.

Our team monitors over 3000 sources of contracts, which means that we never miss training tenders available in the UK and ROI.

 

Training tender alerts

Find live opportunities that are relevant to your industry sector and start receiving training tender alerts today for free.

You can choose the area or region that your business wants to work in and update your Supplier Profile to match your precise business requirements.

Sign up today and you will gain instant access to training tender opportunities.

Get started for free

 

Public sector tenders in construction industry

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, the number of construction firms in Great Britain increased to the highest level on record in 2016.

Studies have also shown that the value of construction new work in Great Britain continued to rise in 2016, reaching its highest level on record at £99,266 million, driven by continued growth in the private sector.

The outlook for those working in the construction sector is broadly positive. However, due to the competitive private sector market, it is time for your business to think about other avenues such as working for the public sector. This in turn means coming to terms with the world of construction procurement.

Getting started with construction procurement

Research has found that small businesses are still struggling to win public sector contracts despite the Government’s efforts to make it easier, but why?

Figures from a survey of 2,700 companies by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) reveal that 40% of small operators believe the tendering process for public sector contracts is “too complex”.

If you include yourself in the percentage above, familiarise yourself with construction procurement terms using our A-Z procurement guide. You can even print a free copy off and keep it on your desk as a reference.

 

Make an Impression

Not sure how to make connections within the construction procurement market? PASS Principal Procurement Consultant Eddie Regan recommends attending Meet the Buyer days and procurement events.

In an interview with Supply2Gov he said that “Meet the Buyer days are extremely important – if you get the chance, start going to them, even just to make contacts.”

 

 

construction_tenders_supply2Gov

 

By attending events you will get your name out there and will begin conversations with public sector buyers who may be looking for construction services in the future.

Wherever you are based, you can attend major procurement events this spring with Procurex England South, Procurex England North and The UK Infrastructure Show all taking place in March and April 2018, in London, Manchester and Birmingham respectively.

Construction Procurement Portals

Construction procurement portals allow you to find more opportunities as they are usually a goldmine of public sector contracts that are suitable for micro and small businesses.

The main benefit of using a construction procurement portal is that you can find contracts from various sources in the one place, saving your business time and effort during the research stage.

Construction Tender Alerts

The quickest way to find construction tenders for small businesses is tender alerts. Micro businesses and sole traders no longer need to sift through numerous portals to find the right construction procurement opportunities. Instead, relevant construction procurement opportunities are sent directly to your inbox.

We monitor over 3000 different sources of contracts. If you are a Supply2Gov customer looking for construction tenders, all you need to do is adjust your preferences in the Supplier Profile section and our tender alerts service will send matching opportunities to your inbox daily.

Let us know the type of contracts you want to win and we can help your business find and win opportunities with public sector bodies in your area or across the UK.

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Start for free

Our customers can start receiving Supply2Gov tender alerts for free. This helps our users to build their micro business, letting users upgrade at a time that suits them.

Get started for free today and choose a local area that your business wants to win work in. Examples of free local areas include Greater Manchester – South, Glasgow City and Outer Belfast. You are not restricted to a location near you, you can choose any local location in the UK.

Register for free today

discussion after tender bid

Win or lose, your micro business should ask for feedback, as even a winning tender will have flaws that could be improved on in the future.

If you have received a rejection for a bid that you have worked hard on, then it is incredibly important that you ask for feedback after the tender evaluation.

Something small could be stopping your business from winning valuable contracts with the public sector and instead of guessing, the quickest and most efficient way of improving your bid strategy is to ask for the buyer’s feedback.

 

Learn from the tender evaluation

This may seem like a cliché, however, learning from your mistakes could lead to success in the future.

Onwards and upwards may seem like the best way to go, but looking back on why your proposal was turned down by a buyer will help your business to move forward. Think of it as constructive criticism.

The feedback that you are given from a failed bid will arm you with knowledge that will help you to strengthen future bids.

 

How should you ask?

Suppliers working with the public sector have the rights to request a verbal or face to face debrief with the buyer. Although raising a challenge is time limited, there is no deadline for requesting a debrief.

A lot can be learned from your failed bids and a face to face meeting will provide you with an opportunity to discuss the response in greater detail. Take the opportunity to listen to the buyer’s feedback and to ask any questions you may have.

The purpose of the debrief is to find out from the buyer’s viewpoint how the bid could have been improved and where it fell short. Whether you agree or not, record any feedback that you are given. Incorporate what you learn into future bids – it could increase your win rate.

 

What Questions Should I Ask?

First, you must find out what led to your bid being rejected.

It is important that your business understands where it is going wrong. If you are unsure what to ask to elicit detailed feedback and are confident that your bid was wholly compliant, the following questions may give you the insight that you require to win in the future:

  • Was your business eligible?
  • Did your business provide everything that was requested?
  • Did you hit the deadlines stated?
  • Did you give enough details relating to pricing, strategy and company background?
  • What could your business do differently in the future?

 

How Can Supply2Gov Help?

At Supply2Gov we encourage all our customers to request feedback. This will show buyers that your business is committed to improving.

Remember, if you don’t shoot then you will never score. Don’t let one failure stop you from applying to other bids.

Once you have asked for feedback, get back in the game with Supply2Gov tender alerts. Knowledge is power and you will be able to produce a more polished proposition when it is time for your business to submit another tender bid for evaluation.

We can help you to find relevant tenders in your region, country or across the UK & ROI. Find out more about our free local area subscription.