Paul Lipman, CEO at BullGuard

Keeping the cogs turning

PCR talks to Paul Lipman, CEO at BullGuard about why cybersecurity is now more important than ever, especially for small business as the shift towards remote working takes a more permanent hold.

After moving into the second Covid-19 wave what have businesses learnt?
While the first wave of the pandemic forced organisations across the world into a balancing act, protecting their employees while simultaneously continuing their operations, it also exposed cybersecurity flaws. It resulted in a steep learning curve for small businesses in particular who began to understand the need for cybersecurity. After some respite from the first wave, the second wave inevitably came, and while many organisations shored up their cyber defences during the first wave, there are still a large number of small businesses struggling to put in place comprehensive protection. Given that our working practises have changed and remote working will become established practise, the need for cybersecurity will be on-going and shouldn’t just be viewed as a temporary patch.

How important has cybersecurity become within the context of remote working?
It’s huge, especially for smaller businesses. Enterprise-sized organisations have deep pockets and dedicated IT teams, so it’s easier for them to adapt and defend. They understand the cyber threat and tend to have layers of cybersecurity defences in place and safeguards to protect remote employees. That said, they have scrambled to increase VPN connections, which has also led to network issues. In some respects, they are still vulnerable to targeted attacks but at a general level, it’s the smaller businesses that are struggling. Cybercriminals are by definition adaptive and opportunistic. Covid-19 is almost a heaven-sent opportunity for them and criminals have moved quickly to exploit a lack of cybersecurity awareness among remote workers and we see this in the huge rise in threats that have grown in parallel with the mass move to working from home.

What is the scale of the cybersecurity problem?
In the UK there are nearly 6 million small businesses defined as having up to 49 employees. They account for three-fifths of employment and around half of the turnover in the UK private sector. Back in April of this year, Google said it was blocking more than 100 million phishing emails a day. Of course, Google is a global operation with about 1.5 billion Gmail users around the world but the point is that the pandemic has led to an explosion of phishing attacks in which criminals try to trick users into revealing personal data and of course many of the targets are UK small businesses. Some research suggests that UK small businesses are targeted by 65,000 cyber-attacks each day and 43% of these small businesses are targeted, which equates approximately to 2.58 million UK small businesses under assault.

Are there any remote working cybersecurity issues specific to smaller businesses?
Many small businesses now understand the value of VPNs in keeping sensitive communications safe from prying eyes and attacks. This shows that cyber threat awareness has certainly increased. However, they are struggling to protect endpoint devices because their choices are limited. In fact some choose to not use endpoint security at all. And those that do are generally faced with a choice of complex, costly, badly fitting enterprise solutions or a patchwork of consumer products that don’t provide centralised management.

What role can resellers and MSPs play in the area of remote working?
At the enterprise level, remote working has opened up many opportunities for resellers and managed service providers, especially in cybersecurity. Fundamentally, clients are looking for partners who have strategic relationships with cloud providers and partners who can provide advanced services and technologies. Clients also like to see backup and disaster recovery strategies, and enough resources and services to meet both present and future demands.

How do MSPs and resellers meet the needs of small businesses?
Small businesses in particular, especially those that don’t have a server infrastructure or management capability; need the expertise of resellers and managed service providers and their insight into appropriate technologies. In turn, resellers can leverage the value of small business specific technologies. For instance, BullGuard VPN is one of the few VPN services available on the market that resellers can sell directly to customers. In contrast, other VPN vendors have a direct to consumer strategy. Similarly BullGuard Small Office Security is a unique platform in that it has been developed specifically for small business endpoint protection. It provides remote centralised management for all devices from a cloud dashboard. In a world where remote working is set to become the norm in the near future, it’s an invaluable tool for protecting small businesses and their employees. The platform also provides an opportunity for resellers who want to move into service provision.

Small businesses often don’t think they will be targets for cyber-attacks until it’s too late. How do you counter this perception?
First of all you have to understand the small business mindset. Large hacks in which millions of customer records are compromised make big headlines and TV news stories. The small accountant down the road or the local solicitor who had to shut down because their bank accounts were plundered by hackers or their customer details exposed rarely receive any kind of media coverage. As such, it’s not surprising that small businesses don’t see themselves as targets for cybercriminals. Added to this is the perception that cybersecurity is complex, costly and a diverting management headache that eats into precious time. Managed service providers and resellers can point to the large body of evidence that proves small businesses are under assault and also show them that by using the right technologies cybersecurity is actually relatively straightforward and cost-effective and that it doesn’t require huge slices of budget to put in place.

How important is a good vendor partnership to help leverage remote working opportunities?
A good vendor won’t just provide a product; it will provide healthy margins to help grow the business, dedicated support, business generation tools and sales leads. Importantly it will be aware of the opportunities that are arising from remote working and funnel its endeavours in this direction to support partners. For instance, BullGuard Small Office Security is a dedicated channel solution only available through our reseller partners. It’s not available as a direct sale online platform because we aim to protect our partners’ margins and profits. Similarly, BullGuard VPN has been made available to the channel in recognition that it provides partners with an opportunity to build sales in a time of need and also establish new customer relationships that can be leveraged further. It’s fair to say that BullGuard has a strong partner reputation, for instance always endeavouring to provide the best up-front and downstream renewal margins to drive partners’ revenue and profit, and also help them leverage the tremendous opportunities inherent in the shift to remote working as an established practise.

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