From social media to cyber security, get yourself digitally prepared

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 24 Jul 2017

BUSINESS leaders have embraced digital tips on dealing with “new”  issues from employees’ use of social media to cyber security and cloud accounting.

“Are You Digitally Prepared, or Digitally Scared?” was a special seminar laid on by Grimsby’s leading professional services providers, Wilkin Chapman and Forrester Boyd.

They brought in the expertise of Simon J Green, a digital engineer and authorised ethical hacker, who has worked with the National Crime Agency.

While his tips were strictly Chatham House, as he exposed everyday cyber weaknesses in people’s activity, solicitor Katie Davies and accountant Alan Nesbitt touched on what can be controlled and what will have to be endured.

Mrs Davies, a partner with the Cartergate House-headquartered law firm, said: “The growth of social media has been massive, and we shouldn’t underestimate the impact it had on business and social life. We are trying to cram more in to our days, unfortunately days are not getting any longer, so we have to use different ways to communicate. Social media allows us to do that, to keep in touch with friends, to publicise and advertise. It is critical, it opens up a whole new audience and you can get messages out very quickly, 24/7. The problem is, because it is used 24/7, because people use it without thinking, they blur the lines between business and private life.”

Explaining privacy settings are no defence as messages can be copied and shared, and that free speech will be balanced with harm to companies, examples of criticising management, customers and products were given, as well as inflicting personal views on others when using accounts associated with the organisation.

“People don’t know 15 per cent of Facebook friends. They may be decanting secrets to people they don’t know, don’t trust and would pass in the street and not say ‘hello’. People think it is different, it is not, you do not know where it will end up.

Social media is the same as saying it to a room full of people, or even worse. You don’t want to stop people using an effective tool, it is about creating awareness.”

Mrs Davies said a well-drafted social media policy should be linked to other policies, such as disciplinary, and it should give clear instruction as to what happens to business sites if a person leaves, with log-in details and future use covered.

“People need to make clear if use is for personal, whether association is promoted or whether it is completely private and separate, whether they are authorised to be friends with colleagues, customers and third parties.” 

Also, breaches need to state it is potential gross misconduct, not just misconduct, and she warned against knee-jerk reactions to any breaches.

“Give examples of how you can use it proactively, and make sure they have a copy of the policy,” Mrs Davies said. “Hand it out to the staff, and give training.”

“People now use smartphones, it is more difficult to monitor, unlike your own IT equipment, so make sure it applies to smartphones too.”

Mr Nesbitt, partner at Forrester Boyd, used the event to introduce FB Digital, as it gears up to help businesses deal with Making Tax Digital. 

He said: “It is the biggest thing to happen in tax in this country in 20 years and still wide spread ignorance mainly in government and HM Revenue and Customs about what is happening, when it is happening and how it is going to affect us all.” Winding back the clock to March 2015, Mr Nesbitt said: “George Osborne, in his Budget speech, announced the death of the tax return. 

“He was very triumphal about it, but didn’t give quite the same publicity to what was coming in its place. It went to consultation, our Institute, and a number of bodies we are involved in made representations, they said it wasn’t thought through properly, that the timetable was wrong, there was no software capability around, and they listened to all that and went ahead anyhow.”

New Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Budget announced a new timetable, but then the General Election was called and 80 per cent of what would make the Finance Act has dropped.

“As we stand now we are not sure,” Mr Nesbitt said, encouraging people to make plans. “The only sensible, safe option is to assume they are still going to go ahead as envisaged in the Budget,” he said. “It is still the same Government, it is no good for people to ignore it and hope at the last minute everything comes right.”

His words came just two days before Thursday’s first indication on the new timetable from Mel Stride MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General. He announced that there would be a 2019 inclusion for all businesses above a VAT threshold of £85,000 brought online.  The businesses will not be asked to keep digital records, or to update HMRC quarterly, for other taxes until at least 2020. Mr Stride said: “Businesses agree that digitising the tax system is the right direction of travel. However, many have been worried about the scope and pace of reforms.

“We have listened very carefully to their concerns and are making changes so that we can bring the tax system into the digital age in a way that is right for all businesses.”

Mr Nesbitt, who had told his audience that Forrester Boyd had been working to a belief that 2018 would the first stage, in response, said: “The Government’s extension to the timetable for Making Tax Digital represents a significant watering down of the proposals put forward in the March budget. Commonsense appears to have prevailed, increasing the chances of the ultimate success of the tax digitisation project.  The absence of compulsion for another year doesn’t mean that businesses shouldn’t be looking to reap the benefits of going digital.

“There is going to be an obligation to keep digital records,” he said, adding that purely a spreadsheet will not suffice, as intermediary software will be required to upload what will be a minimum of quarterly updates, finalisation of accounts figures and final review of annual tax position. “Most people affected by this will now have six submissions –  it is perhaps not quite the cause for celebration Mr Osborne may have envisaged!

“There will be penalties, provisionally a light touch at first, then they will start penalising and punishing. It is going to be the biggest culture shock for a lot of the people who have a couple of buy-to-let properties, who may well keep records in the back of an exercise book.

“People are going to be forced to keep up-to-date records. Most people nowadays are quite good at it, and people who aren’t are going to be forced to do it. That, at least, is a genuine positive. And there will be no need for big lever arch files, you can put your collections of antique tea pots up on the shelves instead!

“Whatever you do take action, don’t let it fall into the good intention tray.”

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