Yet another data breach!

Another day another data breach, only this time its a big firm once again that gets reported on – Three – the mobile phone operator. 

Police have arrested three men in connection with a recent data breach at Three, two men from Manchester and one from Kent were picked up by the National Crime Agency (NCA) as part of the investigation. 

Arrested for suspicion of computer misuse offences the men had unlawfully intercepted upgrade devices that they had obtained details for through accessing a database of customers who were eligible for upgrade.

Three have stated that an increased level of handset fraud and retail store burglaries has occurred in recent weeks as a result with over 400 high value devices stolen.

This comes only a month or so after the TalkTalk breach which had 160,000+ customers personal data being accessed and an ICO fine of £400,000 to the company. 

The ICO has stated that a large number of bank account details including sort code and account numbers were accessed as a result. 

With more and more high profile cases (including the recent Sage case) and the data protection act & GDPR becoming more front page news – smaller firms need to pay attention to what is happening in their own businesses. 

In Derby alone in the last 3 months we have seen dozens of cases of cyber security and data breaches occur – most commonly customers of the business will find out before the proprietors themselves. 

It is time that SMEs, professional service companies and manufacturers in particular wise up to the very real threat of data breaches and cyber security attacks.

3 Essential steps to cyber security

Cyber crime can be both complex and costly to recover from particularly if you do not know where to start. Here are our 5 essential steps to cyber security and ensuring you have the basics in place to keep your company safe from the cyber threats.

Step 1 – What data do you hold and how do you classify it?

Understanding what knowledge and value you hold within the organisation through different pieces of data you store as a business is key to a good cyber security plan. Not all data is classified equally, your employees personal data doesn’t have the same value as email content nor the same value as your Sage accounts backup file.

Consider the various amounts of data your company works with on a day to day basis, how are those machines configured, secured and who has access to them, does the PA really need access to the entire file server or a HR person need access to the Sage accounts package?

Classify and categorise your data into how important it is to your business, who needs access and what the backup process is for each piece of data.

Step 2 – Protect, detect and secure

Protecting the information your business needs to run must be key to day to day operations. Encrypting your systems, restricting access on a ‘least privilege’ basis and ensuring that employees must only have access if specifically required and not by default.

You should be monitoring network activities, checking firewall configurations and ensuring proactive anti-malware protection is in place should be the minimum your business should have in place to control your networks incoming traffic and identify potential threats before they become a problem.

Step 3 – Stay ahead of the curve

Technology moves quickly, but cyber threats move quicker still – with new versions of malware appearing every day – now more than ever its crucial that systems are maintained, advanced threat detection in place and patches for all software on the network are kept up to date.

You don’t need to use the software on a daily basis for a vulnerability to be exploited, that piece of software on your desktop that hasn’t been run for a few weeks may already be out of date, exploited and waiting to infect the network.

Keep devices, both mobile and office based up to date and ensure policies and processes around these are controlled.

Review documents and information laid out by government around cyber security this gives you a good perspective of what needs to be the minimum your business should adhere to.

Cyber Essentials is the certification and audit process RDS Global can support your business with, taking your company and its key members of staff through a training and auditing process to ensure that hardware, software, policies and procedures are all brought in line with GDPR and Cyber Essentials.

With over 2,000 small businesses in the UK already Cyber Essentials accredited – now is the time for you to demonstrate to customers and suppliers that you take cyber security seriously.

Social media isn’t really a job

I’m just going to go out there and say it…..social media is NOT a job, its not even something you should be spending your valuable time on.

Oh and I hear you:

  • “But Sean – what do you know!”
  • “You ran an agency that had social media as a paid service”
  • “My marketing agency/PR person say XYZ”
  • “You clearly haven’t seen the ROI””Why do you use social media at all if your time is so valuable?”
  • “Its part of our marketing / PR strategy / content play {insert BS marketing buzzwords}”

And thats great folks – but the fact of the matter is – social media, which we pretty much called Web 2.0 some 5+ years ago, and before that we just called it ‘the web’ or ‘the internet’ is just that – its just the internet, nothing has really changed.

Or the best one ‘we generated over £150k for our clients in the last 3 years through social media’…..its bullsh*t…no you haven’t….your ‘clients’ made a conscious decision with or without your help to put marketing spending or ‘time’ as we can also refer to it – into an app/website and look for sales leads.

Does that mean at the previous agency I ran where we sold social media as a service between £600 and £6000 a month was wrong of us? Not at all, just as all the other ‘agencies’ will tell you they delivered ROI, so did we. But ROI isn’t the point because no one is calculating that properly at all (trust me – paying your social media agency £500 a month and generating £2000 a month ‘direct’ isn’t ROI).

We had a small social media team at the previous agency – that turned over more money than any dedicated social media company in the local area – because we didn’t just teach businesses how to fish, we did the fishing for them with a temporary licence.

One thing is to teach someone they must do A, B & C on twitter to land business (chances are you won’t by the way) – its 100x more effective to become a part of the clients organisation and act on their behalf – fully integrated with who they are and how they operate. Driving £10k a month of sales through Facebook that can be tracked, reported and then guess what – allowing the client company to bring that fully in house rather than paying you a sum each month to keep that water flowing.

Right now there are too many 18-25yr old ‘digital marketing experts’ who have less than 2 years of experience, because having a Facebook and instagram account does not qualify you as an expert. Too many people writing short form blog posts (~300/400 words) because they read an article from 2015 about how Google loves fresh, short content or they took a course 4 years ago in ‘SEO’ which tells them they should do ‘keyword research’. The world loves a shortcut and too many businesses are relying on these ‘kids’ to make returns they just cannot do.

Unless you have relevant industry experience, time actually doing the work, learning the craft – you cannot pass yourself off as any form of expert. Remember that whole 10,000 hour thing – some of these ‘experts’ haven’t even done 10,000 hours of work in their ‘careers’ yet, not even adding up the hours spent flipping burgers at Mcdonalds before they started their ‘guru’ level of digital marketing 3 months ago!

Social media is NOT a job, social media is just another word we use now for ‘the internet’, your 20k tweets, 400 instagram posts and 6 years of Facebook counts for NOTHING. A real business has a real plan, which involves sales and marketing – ‘twitter’ and the other ‘social’ sites – are just pools of attention, ‘eyeballs’ as we used to refer to them – where your potential customers are spending their time.

Market to those attention pools – but you would be amazed what you can achieve by not paying £25k a year for a ‘social media expert’ or a ‘expert 20yr old digital marketing exec’ – but instead by applying 20% of your marketing budget (cash+time) to these pools and making them work for you, not costing your business every month in time and marketing spend.

I don’t profess to have all the answers, but over ten years in agency world tells me that there are a lot of businesses out there who are on a regular basis paying for an unnecessary service, wasting away valuable funds that their businesses could re-invest elsewhere for a far better return.

World Mental Health Day (Entrepreneur Edition)

“I’m Fine”…….How many times have you heard that said?

Above: Commonly referred to as the black cloud or the monster in your head…

You can read about it online, you can listen to the radio or watch the TV and hear about ‘depression’ or ‘bi-polar’ and many other of the types of mental health problems that are discussed albeit still very much away from mainstream medias attention. 

But what does it actually mean…

It means that for men in England and Wales aged 20-49 – suicide is the most common cause of death at present. Of course suicide is not a mental health problem per se – it is very commonly linked to mental distress however.

It’s always best to speak about what you know about…for me thats entrepreneurship and depression. Both of which have been the leading factors of my life story for as long as I can remember.

Entrepreneurs, those ‘crazy’ individuals who go all out in an effort to create and build something spectacular, to change the way we do things, bring something new to market or disrupt existing sectors are of the most common sufferers of mental health issues. 

Starting a successful business is not something you just do, its something that you livebreathe and becomes your entire existence…there isn’t a 9-5 element to entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur tends to merge their own self worth and existence with that of their business and personal goals until there are no blurred lines – until work/life balance no longer exists. 

Work/Life balance is bullshit.

Entrepreneurship in essence is an obsession. It stems from control over your destiny, the direction and details to grow and innovate…all at the hands of the entrepreneur. Add to the mix 3, 10, 50, 400, 3000 employees who’s livelihood is also in your hands – the pressure mounts up even further. Investor money burning every month, further pressure. Your friends don’t understand? Your wife leaves? The deal fell through? Cash in the bank burning too quickly? No one to talk to?….thats right, no one to talk to….because who else could possibly understand? 

Why are 1 in 3 entrepreneurs suffering with depression?

Simple – its expectations. From others and most importantly from their self. Because of course….you’re not where you thought you would be by now are you?

I started on my entrepreneurial path very young – several little ventures along the way until starting my previous company over ten years ago. Which grew and grew, made more and more money, both the business and I were one and the same. To those ends we made a lot of enemies (people hate to see you succeed), we did incredible things in the community and for charities, we seen and heard at every event and publication. For ten years the business ran successfully – but depression rode along with me EVERY DAY. That black cloud that follows you around no matter what you do, “smile for the camera” – great another piece in the paper meanwhile in the back of your mind depression keeps chewing away or the million other times of the day when you just want to lock yourself away and escape. Best sales month every? Who cares….Landed a fantastic project with a new client? Great, but it wasn’t big enough….Hired 2 new staff to boost development…yes but X Y and Z.

Eventually I found my ‘divider’ – the piece I needed to separate life and work….when I found out I was to become a father. That gave me what I needed to step down, walk away and breath for the first time in over a decade. Get away from expectations and the 120mph life.

The cost of entrepreneurship is high, when we see so many of our brightest entrepreneurs committing suicide (Jody Sherman, Ovik Banerjee, Matt Berman, Aaron Schwartz and so many more) you have to step back and take stock as to why this is happening and what we can do to help.

World Mental Health Day & What you can do

It began in 1992 as an initiative by the World Federation for Mental Health – a global organisation who every year with a different theme aim to bring attention and awareness to mental health issues around the globe.

As to what you can do…that varies on an individual basis….but most importantly….speak to someone….anyone.

Find a way of dividing your time between work and life….a hobby….thats what they used to tell me…find a hobby to distract you. Easier said than done when you are obsessed with work. But find something that can ease the pain.

Take care of your mental state, your body and your family – every piece is crucial, look up Brad Feld – a well known VC who suffers with depression who talks openly about it, or Jerry Colonna – the entrepreneurs ‘therapist’ that suffers and helps those who suffer get through the hard times.

Drop me a message, an email a tweet, whatever…entrepreneurship is hard.

Read more here about World Mental Health day and how you can support: http://metro.co.uk/2016/10/09/world-mental-health-day-what-is-it-and-why-is-it-important-6181925/

You were most likely hacked last week

You don’t know about it and why would you – the fact is that studies show over 74% of UK small businesses had a security breach in the last 12 months. The remaining 26% most likely just haven’t discovered the threat yet.

Back in 1991 the Michelangelo virus would infect systems and lay dormant until the birthday of Renaissance artist Michelangelo on March 6th, before erasing a user’s hard drive. It should be no surprise therefore that today’s virus, worms, ransomware or general malware are as smart as they are.

A single piece of malware is most likely sat somewhere on your network today; collecting passwords, copying sensitive data to a server in eastern Europe or perhaps simply waiting for a moment to encrypt your files and resell them to you.

It is perceived by many that big companies are commonly hacked by foreign countries. This is a misconception. The reality of the situation lies in the millions of really smart (and curious) teenagers just looking to figure out systems and networks, how to access, bypass and login for fun. The motivation for these attacks goes beyond making a profit and it would seem that this profile of ‘attacker’ are of the most common variety within the industry today.

Article featured in Insider Magazine October 2016.

Selling your time for pennies


On the internet, they like you should spit it
I’m like you should buy it, n**a that’s good business
 – Jay Z

Hourly, salary or shareholder getting paid dividends in a business – it matters not how you get paid but the fact that you do. You are no matter how you look at it – selling your time for pennies (some more than others).

That doesn’t bother me so much, rather its when we swing the pendulum too far the other way that we need to adjust our focus. When folk won’t go past 5:01pm to do their job, or perhaps worse still take take take and don’t give back – namely to those who would most benefit from that time.

Ditching agency life earlier this year where I committed a good 70-90hrs a week of my life for ten years – means that now I do have more time to give back.

That said anyone that knows me will know that even at the busy agency times I was still able to give back with being active on Derby Councils Enterprise 4 Education board, mentoring a number of fantastic secondary school pupils through STEM, mentoring & supporting students at Derby University (such as DrivenMedia), developing training academies and the list of boards and charities goes on.

I rarely promote the majority of entities I am involved with but after a thrilling conversation today which lead me to feel more comfortable with being as active as I am in so many fantastic ventures – I feel like I may just shout a little more from time to time about the companies and individuals I work with.

For we all sell time for money in one way or another – wouldn’t it just be great if perhaps a few more of us left money on the table to give a little more back. I’m not perfect by any means – but putting an hour to one side now and then to sit down and help others is the bare minimum I can accept from myself.

Pokemon Go and how marketers will ruin it

Marketers ruin everything and we know this without a shadow of a doubt. So it only makes sense that given the fact that Pokemon Go has become more viral than flappy birds and angry birds (remember those games?) did means that with the augmented reality (AR) element that marketers will undoubtably take hold of the AR sphere here and start making some dollars out of it.

Some clever folk already have created fantastic side apps to Pokemon including chats, mapping and social networks that work side by side – but the big step is local marketing opportunities. Not only are US ride sharing companies jumping on this by offering discounted trips to those trying to find pokemon around the city, but tourist attractions in the states are offering money off tickets to popular attractions and local restaurants adding Pokemon lure modules are reporting an increase in business…

This is all very obvious when you think bout it but because you don’t own a restaurant doesn’t mean your own business can’t benefit from this new fad. I say fad because like many others before it – there will be the typical curve bell of interest and attention before the next big thing comes along but unlike oculus rift – Pokemon Go has made some form of AR available to the every day human being out there trying to catch em all!

Once a fully baked advertising platform becomes available within Pokemon Go – marketers world wide will be able to jump on this and execute like never before. Your going to see further AR with museums and cafes opting to have rare pokemon in their halls or exclusive extras found at your local eatery. Never mind the fact that incubating your pokemon at the local pizza restaurant for 2 hours will most likely give you some extra kudos and prizes.

It won’t be long before marketers figure out the next couple of steps in AR and how this Pokemon craze some ~15 years later has become a hot topic all over again will inevitably lead to marketing channels like never before. I for one see an enormous opportunity for snapchat and pokemon go to team up to deliver some unique AR opportunities.

3 Things I have learnt from mentoring entrepreneurial students

Over the years I have mentored numerous students who have the dream of running their own businesses or becoming entrepreneurs in their own right. It would come as no surprise that there are things to be learnt from both sides of the table. As I have helped with marketing, technology and general business advice – I too have picked up on a few things from the students I have mentored and wanted to share with you here 3 things I think to be of interest I have learnt.

Variety of drive

What one person desires and is willing to put into achieving their goals isn’t nearly as much as the next might be willing to do. This can cause some controversy over the word entrepreneur which is being thrown around to anyone who has a web site and an idea to play on, but the real fact is where one person maybe entrepreneurial in the sense of willing to give it all up for greatness – there is (rightly so) those who are only willing to go so deep in the rabbit whole and who still may be entrepreneurial.

A variety of both how far one person is willing to commit vs others – neither is bad – but in a world where people boast of their 20hr days and 4hrs of sleep a night – it is hard not to follow the convention. Those putting in a solid 10hr day may just well outwork their tired caffeine infused counterparts.

Understanding your passion, your drive, your ‘why’ – is crucial. Are you happy to be putting in 8-10hrs a day? Can you commit 14hrs+ a day? What are you willing to put in? There is no right or wrong answer.

Its the latest craze

For a lot of students I speak to often ‘entrepreneur’ has become that ‘cool’ job title or term to use. What was once a label for ‘unemployed’ or ‘still trying to figure it out’ has become a buzz word for many. Since Zucks put on a hoodie and made a few billion and the likes of Dragons Den put ‘entrepreneurship’ in the spot light it has become the one word bio for many.

Not everyone with a web site is an entrepreneur in the same way that not everyone that buys the Ralph Lauren shirt is a model. Its a term that many people are applying to themselves and others incorrectly and is detracting from what the real purpose is.

Far too often I’ve asked the question ‘what do you want to do in business’ and the answer comes in the shape of ‘an entrepreneur’… there is something inherently wrong with that answer in my opinion.

That age/race/background still matters

Its a sad thing to say particularly as we have so many young talented entrepreneurs doing so well, that people will still undoubtably ‘judge’ someone based on their looks, race, ethnicity and even age.

The human race has a tendency to judge people far too quickly – we are all guilty of this to some degree. Having mentored a number of students of different ages, backgrounds and seen first hand how they are dismissed or not taken seriously because of these facts.

I recall being 21 years old and meeting a potential client at an event who would later become not only an influential figure in my development over the years but a great client to work with for several years. Being young, smart and good at explaining who I was and what benefit I could bring to their business, I thought I had it in the bag – only to be largely ignored because of my age. Once my name kept floating around this person decided to bring me in to consult on some projects and after a very short time I was told the reason for the quick dismissal in our initial meeting.

“When I look at 21 yr olds – they have all the talk and none of the action – you proved me wrong” the client said. The fact that we can look at someone and immediately make a snap decision we don’t want to work with that person because of age or cultural background is astonishing.

This particular client grew to be someone I considered a mentor myself and a great businessman – perseverance keeps you going. If you are 18 to 25 (or even older) and regularly get knock backs, or if you are finding it difficult to get those meetings or be taken seriously – KEEP PUSHING.

Patience is GREATLY underrated. You need to be patient.

Some of these student / graduate entrepreneurs are REALLY dominating – lend them your support!

Culture matters – but so does IQ

It is easy to understand that agency life and the technology world has been largely influenced by those great American firms such as Google, Twitter, Facebook and many other Silicon Valley giants.

So it is not uncommon to walk into startups or agencies that have the fridge stacked with fizzy drinks, the football or pool table, the best of tech, huge multi monitor setups, bean bags and all the other crazy antics that go along with such a young, vibrant and energetic environment such  as the agency I ran for the last ten years had.

The problem is building a fantastic culture will only ever take you so far – you still need to hire the best people possible for the team. Recruitment has forever been one of the most difficult aspects of growing a business.

At my previous company iBox which I ran for 10 years we hired some of the best and brightest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and couldn’t have been more proud of each team member and their empathy, intelligence and drive. 

This is not something that is straight forward to find – along side building a team that creates and maintains a culture you want to exist in your company, the fact that each member of the team has to be at the top of their game every day can only exist in an environment where they work well together and operate under a single vision. 

You can teach culture, it can be instilled into your new recruits by your existing team – scale the vision. But a good team member needs to have IQ (and EQ) enough so that they can make those sales calls you need, build that beautiful web page or put together the incredibly detailed marketing plan but also integrate within the organisation beyond their basic job description.

A team member that goes above and beyond those ten bullet points set out in their job description is someone that doesn’t need telling on a daily basis how much value they bring to their organisation but realises that they are making a difference every day. A problem solver vs a problem stater makes an enormous difference to an organisation. 

iBox had an incredible collective of highly intelligent people and I’m happy to see each one in a role they can continue to develop in going forward. 

Becoming a UN Peacekeeper – Alex Webber

I met Alex some weeks ago at the University of Derby and Flint Bishop hosted event – “Network of Entrepreneurs (NoE)”, something I have been involved with since the first event in November 2014.  

During the event Alex gave a very heartfelt speech about why his goal was to become a UN peacekeeper and how he intends on going about achieving it. Having spent a lot of time meeting with Alex, and numerous emails discussing this, it is very clear that there is very little standing in the way of Alex and his goal.

Alex, who turns 25 this month, aims to become a UN Peacekeeper knowing that this is no quick process – in fact, it could take him some time. Currently, Alex works as a mentor with the University of Derby and recently sought support from Flint Bishop’s new initiative “Inspire and Ignite” (http://www.flintbishop.co.uk/solicitors-and-lawyers-derby/inspire-ignite/).

If you ask Alex why it all started – he doesn’t really know, but he can explain why….

“This all started around three years ago when I made the very sudden shift in career change. I was at the time still working on a Princes Trust backed business that was in a ‘prototype’ mode after the second year, which I was looking at leaving as a side project after so long trying to get it going.

I didn’t have a ‘Eureka’ moment unfortunately, that one moment when it all became clear.

It was over the several years that I have been watching the scenes we see in the Middle East and now also Europe ,of international politics and terrorism movements clashing more so than ever. I took an interest in the news headlines from day one and after seeing this day in, day out I began to wonder if I could be involved in any way.

At first I considered simply working with a charity and doing something on a smaller scale, but very quickly it dawned on me that it wasn’t just a passing interest. After seeing a report into Peacekeepers, particularly their civilian numbers, I became fascinated and knew I wanted/needed to be involved.”

Alex is  currently fundraising for an internship in the USA and will ultimately need financial aid to reach his goal.

Alex comments on his fundraising goals:

“Fundraising wasn’t something I ever intended to do in regard to my career ambitions. Having seen the opportunity before me, I simply can’t ignore the chance to find myself at the heart of a Humanitarian operation and unfortunately I simply cannot manage that on my own. The skills, knowledge and networking involved is invaluable to someone in my position. The internship itself, a position within the UN Peacekeepers base in New York, will allow me to survey the other side of working in Humanitarian roles and gain a greater understanding of the paper side of such an operation.

It’s something that not all Peacekeepers, in fact very few, are be able to see first-hand. In doing so, I am able to create connections with a large number of crucial contacts in my field, as well as plan towards moving up within the Peacekeeping and UN system itself. My ambitions don’t stop at working as, or alongside, the Peacekeepers. I fully intend to progress through either the UN system, or another in my work in Humanitarianism. I’m already reading heavily on the use of drone or UAV technology in the NPO sector and the developments within the industry, that we’ll see over the next ten years. The scope for potential involvement that I’ll have with the help of this one internship, and what will come from it with the associated skills, will be massive.

This internship will be the first step on my way into, a hopefully very long and involved career and is the single best step to allow me to pursue it. I fully intend to be working in the field within the next five years within Africa, the Middle East and Asia, helping me in my efforts isn’t a ploy to save me money, it’s verifiable support in helping me to obtain skills, information and abilities that will eventually help to manage to refugee and overall humanitarian supply lines of the future. I’m grateful for any and all support. I sincerely thank you if you’re able and willing to do so, I hope to be able to repay the efforts of others one day myself.”

If you would like to get in touch with Alex you can find him on Linkedin here (https://uk.linkedin.com/in/alex-webber-6bb0ab40) or via email awebber68@yahoo.com

But most importantly the Justgiving page: https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/alexander-webber

Every little donation would help Alex achieve his dream of becoming a UN Peacekeeper.