Smart meters – are they safe?

Data security is a hot topic, and a concern that won’t be going away anytime soon.

Criminals are actively targeting consumers and businesses alike in their quest for easy pickings,  and with data breaches hitting the headlines on a regular basis, you’d be right to have concerns about how safe your data is online. But how do smart meters measure up in terms of security?

Smart meters are covered by strict UK and EU product safety laws. These ensure that smart meters all have the same high quality and safety standards, regardless of who you buy your energy from.

The smart meter security system is very secure. Security has been at the heart of the whole smart meter rollout programme from the very beginning, and right through the design process.

We know that many customers are worried about security of their data when using a smart meter, so we’re addressing some of the main questions here to help put your mind at ease.

Is smart metering secure?

Yes. Smart meters have their own closed, dedicated communications system that employs technology widely used by, for example, the banking industry. Smart meters have been designed with guidance from top cyber security experts, including the government and GCHQ, to ensure that security best practice has been incorporated at every stage.

Is my personal data secure?

Yes, absolutely. Smart meters do not store any personal data such as name, address and bank details – only information on the amount of energy which a building is using.

Is the installation of smart meters safe?

The UK energy industry has been safely installing and replacing meters for decades. There are no differences about the physical gas and electricity work at customers’ premises to install a smart meter – and the meters themselves have gone through extensive safety testing to gain approval for use. With millions of meters installed around the UK, incident rates are extremely low.

You can find more information about how your data is protected when using a smart meter here:

http://www.energy-uk.org.uk/policy/smart-meters.html

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Cyber attacks and malware threaten all businesses

Cyber attacks aren’t going away. Email will continue to be the main distribution method and social engineering practices (tricking users) will continue to evolve.

  • With data breaches becoming more common and high profile, there is a need for increased diligence from directors concerning cyber security, to prevent claims arising
  • Directors in the US are potentially vulnerable to cyber-related directors and officers claims, and the trend is almost certain to cross the Atlantic
  • To prevent exposures, cyber risk management must become the responsibility of directors

No company is too small to face a cyber attack, and the increasing regularity of such incidents means that as cyber breaches become more common, claims against directors, following losses suffered by the company, will no doubt increase.

These are the 5 most common cyber attacks to be aware of:

1. Phishing – emails are sent from an allegedly trusted source asking for sensitive information

2. Spear Phishing – a specialised attack on a particular person in your company

3. Physical baiting – leaving an infected piece of hardware such as a USB stick in the office in the hope someone uses it and infects the network

4. Pretexting – an attacker pretends to be a colleague or a supplier and asks an individual to provide sensitive information.

5. CEO fraud – posing as a member of senior management in order to trick someone to transfer money to a specified account

In 2015, 74% of small UK businesses experienced a cyber breach. It is estimated cyber crime costs British businesses £34 billion a year and can also have a devastating effect on a company’s reputation. UK cyber attacks have risen 40% in the last year and the UK is now the European country targeted most by cyber criminals.

While cyber attacks on major corporations such as TalkTalk and Wetherspoons may generate more media interest, SMEs are increasingly being targeted by cyber criminals too.

Recently, a small family business in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, lost more than £26,000 after falling victim to a sophisticated email fraud, and UK charity, the National Childbirth Trust, apologised to 15,000 new and expectant parents after their registration details were accessed in a data breach. These scenarios demonstrate the varying nature of cyber threats and the associated risks.

Cyber risk management is an issue that should be at the heart of boardroom discussions, and not one that is solely an IT department problem.

Although it is impossible for SMEs to completely eliminate the threat from cyber criminals, there are measures they can take to reduce the risk.

For example, more than 1,000 UK businesses have adopted Cyber Essentials, a government scheme to protect firms against some of the most common online threats, including viruses, malware and hacking.

Businesses can also build a human line of defence against cyber attack – for example by educating staff on the types of scams that cyber attackers use and encouraging employees to report these types of scams to their company’s IT department.

Speak to one of A-Plan’s commercial insurance experts for more information on this important topic.

 

Guest blog by A-Plan Insurance

Unleash your Super Powers

We’re encouraging Britain’s businesses to ‘Unleash their Super Powers!’

It’s a well-known fact that small business owners are super busy (excuse the pun) trying to run and grow their business. A recent survey revealed that smaller businesses have little time to engage with energy suppliers but are very wary of price rises. They also feel that prices can be too high but find comparing different tariffs and suppliers too time consuming and confusing. When speaking to business owners their general feeling about energy contracts was one of ‘I’m just too busy to think about it’ as well as ‘I don’t bother them and they don’t bother me. Experience is neutral and neutral is good’ One family run taxi firm stated ‘If your electricity and heating is working it’s the last thing on your mind’.

We listened to the feedback and now offer businesses the chance to fix their businesses energy prices for 3 years, meaning that they can forget about renewals and focus on unleashing their super powers and being the best at what they do. No need to worry about unexpected price rises, with the SuperFix they know that their prices won’t budge until 2020.

For more information about the SuperFix tariff visit www.npower.com/superfix2020

International Women’s Day – Lauren McCullough

This week we’ve been celebrating International Women’s Day (8th March). We’ve asked some of our female colleagues about their career, from leaving school all the way through to what they are doing today. Our final interview comes from Lauren McCullough:

Lauren

Lauren McCullough, Continuous Improvement Delivery Manager, npower

“I joined npower in 2010 straight out of University where I studied Sports Journalism and Magazine Design at Sunderland and moved onto the Graduate Scheme. I am a passionate and highly ambitious individual who thrives when working under pressure and having the ability to challenge the norm. My strengths include story boarding and communicating, driving performance of both my team and achieving tangible results through both motivation and problem solving skills. I take great pride in being confident, efficient and bringing fun into the workplace.

For the first two years on the graduate scheme I had to take various placements across the business;

  1. PR – Football League Sponsorship: My role was a PR sponsorship executive. I had to directly liaise with Football Clubs and PR Agencies to ensure we were maximising our return on investment. The job also included hosting competition winners and sponsorship events around the country.
  2. Change and Service Improvement: I made the decision to move up to the North East and gain experience in Customer Service, recognising that this is where I could gain some real leadership experience. My specific role was to take accountability for delivering digital change and set up Web Chat.
  3. Complaints Operational Manager: For my final placement I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and manage our customer facing teams in our most challenging environment; complaints, where I was responsible reducing the volume of our complaints. This was the job that cemented my passion within npower, which was improving our service to customers and developing people. I got offered this job on a permanent basis and this was my first step out of the graduate scheme and into a ‘proper’ job!

You have to have some pretty broad shoulders to manage people through a change curve, both emotionally and technically. The biggest challenge when managing a team is being is able to create a resilience and tenacity in yourself to ensure you are provide consistency and belief for the team. Being able to adapt your leadership style is key when managing on a large scale because you have to recognise that everybody’s values and beliefs are different and therefore not everybody will react in the same way.

I get my energy and drive from seeing a change in people and from my experience, the easy part of the job is changing a process or building a solution, however transforming a culture is what makes the job extremely hard, but without that this, the job wouldn’t be so rewarding!

I absolutely love problem solving! Working in Continuous Improvement means that there are always things to improve or problems to solve, but it genuinely gets me out of bed every morning knowing that myself and the team can really make a difference for the business and the customer with the solutions that we come up with. I thrive under pressure and having to work to really tight deadlines and the knowledge I have gained over the last few years means I now see work through a completely different lens and I am constantly looking for opportunities to make a difference.

The boldest thing I’ve ever done in my career is probably finishing in the top 3 for the National Young Energy Professional of the Year Awards in 2015 for Customer Focus. I am so proud of this achievement and never thought I would get recognised externally for something that I am passionate about and for a category that is so close to my heart! It was some of the toughest years of my career so far and there were a lot of emotions and challenges along the way but it was a time that genuinely changed my outlook on what I want to do for the rest of my career.

People ask why I chose this career after studying sports journalism. The honest answer is there wasn’t a lot of money in being a trainee sports journalist and I decided to join a graduate scheme so I could start earning a bit more money to buy a house. However the reason I chose npower was because we had just taken the Football League Sponsorship and my first placement was in PR which was closely linked to the press and media which was a very similar skill set.

When I left the graduate scheme, I developed a passion for customer service and realised I was pretty good at it! I was then talent spotted within the operation as a candidate to work in our transformational teams and was trained up. They genuinely changed the outlook for my career and introduced me to new tools and skills and I fell in love with it! Ultimately I would love to join the dots with my passion for sports media and lean transformation and do this type of role for Sky/BBC later on in my career.”

Get involved with International Women’s Day at https://www.internationalwomensday.com

Like what you’ve seen? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #BeBoldForChange and Linkedin at npower Business

International Women’s Day – Birgit Lichtenstein

This year March 8th is International Women’s day, with the theme ‘Be Bold To Change’ and to celebrate, every day this week we’re featuring some of our female colleagues, asking them all about their career from leaving school through to what they are doing today.

Birgit Birgit Lichtenstein,

Managing Director Innogy Business Services UK

I grew up in North West Germany close to the Dutch border. Having studied Economics my first job was in the corporate development area in RWE Energy in 1992, where I was responsible for looking for new business opportunities.

In 2015 I made a bold move to the UK on secondment and am now responsible for IT across the business. The role offered a huge opportunity for me to improve the situation as we were over outsourcing which was leading to issues that affected the business negatively. I love the challenges that the job brings, seeing the improvements being made gives me a great kick personally. IT is so vital these days in a Retail environment as literally no processes could work without it. The opportunities offered by this are almost limitless.

I think with women the work-life balance is a very personal thing but I think we have a very strong drive to get done what needs to be done and also what is expected of us. Over time people learn how to make the balance work for them.

Despite working in a very challenging environment I try to make time to enjoy some gardening, cooking with friends and sports, particularly Tennis.

Get involved with International Women’s Day at https://www.internationalwomensday.com

Like what you’ve seen? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #BeBoldForChange and Linkedin at npower Business

International Women’s Day – Helen James

Today is International Women’s Day, and to celebrate, every day this week we’re featuring some of our female colleagues, asking them all about their career from leaving school through to what they are doing today.

Helen Helen James – Head of Marketing, npower Business

“My first job was working for British Rail in Operational Research.  It’s about using mathematical methods to address business issues.  I did a Maths degree so it was an obvious first job.  Whilst I was there I did an MSc in Operational Research part time.  We worked a bit like internal consultants and had quite a range of clients.  Some were great to work with and really appreciated how we could help them.  Others were a bit more sceptical about how a load of bright, young things could tell them anything new.  I have never forgotten being introduced at a meeting as my boss’ ‘glamorous assistant’!

With my current role  I love the fact that it has a broad remit and gets me involved in a wide range of things.  Most of my career has been spent in customer insight – helping businesses to understand what their customers want and need.  Now I get to use that insight to develop what we offer customers.  I’ve learned a lot through this role.

Before I came to npower I spent 9 years at home with my children and running my own business for about 15 hours a week.  That was perfect for balancing work and family as I could be there when the family needed me but was still progressing my career.  Now I work full time it’s harder.  I tend to stay at work a bit too long and I also have to do quite a bit of driving both of which squeeze my time at home.  I make time when I’m home to talk to my children about what they’re doing  and so they know I’m there! It’s also important to do something that is just for me.  I started to learn the baritone horn a few years ago and it’s a great way to wind down!

I’ve also recently taken over as the Chair of AURA. I discovered them  in the 9 years I spend working for myself.  They are a member led organisation for clientside insight professionals to share best practice.  Through AURA I discovered the real power of networking.  Spending time with people who did a similar job to me really helped to stimulate my ideas.  I remained involved in AURA as a member once I joined npower and got the insight team involved too.  When they needed a new Chair I was happy to step forward and help.  This year’s focus will be on building a really engaging suite of member communications to keep members involved even if they are not able to come to events.

It pays to be bold at work  One example of when I felt I was being overtly bold was at a previous company when I managed to get them to completely change their thinking about their route to market.  They had a whole load of strategic initiatives in train and an ambitious growth target.  I took a step back and did some simple back of the envelope intelligent guesswork (the BOEING technique!) and it was clear to me that the initiatives would never cause the change in behaviour needed to deliver the growth target.  I went to the Exec and did my BOEING analysis on a couple of bits of flipchart to show why they needed more.  There was no Powerpoint and no heavy pack of numbers – and it worked. ”

Get involved with International Women’s Day at https://www.internationalwomensday.com

Like what you’ve seen? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #BeBoldForChange and Linkedin at npower Business

International Women’s Day – Alison Sidaway

This year March 8th marks International Women’s Day, a worldwide celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women as well as a call for gender parity. It’s all about unity, celebration, reflection, advocacy and action – whatever that looks like globally at a local level. But one thing is for sure, International Women’s Day has been occurring for well over a century – and continues to grow from strength to strength. Each year there is a different theme, with 2017’s being Be Bold For Change.

Like many other businesses, npower are jumping on the bandwagon and have been talking to some of our own successful and inspirational women about their achievements. Over the course of the week we’ll be featuring interviews celebrating a different ‘Bold’ npower woman each day.

alison  Alison Sidaway,

Product and Innovation Manager, npower Business

My first job was working part time at Woolworths on the record counter whilst still at school! It was a great job as I loved the people I worked  with and really enjoyed selling and being able to play the records I wanted!!….it gave me some great experience in retail and selling which led me into some great sales roles over the years.

I’ve worked in the energy industry for 34 years. Having ventured out to more commercial roles in recent years I really wanted to go back into a role which was closer to the customer, so Product and Innovation Manager was ideal. I love the variety of work and the wide range of people I interact with. I have a small but great team and we all ‘muck in’ together.

I am the sub steering group lead for the UK’s leg of the Innogy Women’s network. (Innogy is the German company that owns npower). The network is across all the countries that Innogy exists in and has been going for 10 years now. There are several hundred women across the company who are part of the network, and it is run voluntarily. We have several meetings and workshops throughout the year and an annual conference.

The network exists to support women who work for Innogy and its subsidiaries to help them get connected with other areas of the business, support each other and gain more visibility with the group.  We help them with mentoring and coaching as well as including them on projects which help with their personal and professional development.  This works both ways as it helps to support the company and bring new ideas to the table.

I’ve done lots of different things in my career but the scariest thing I did was presenting to a conference of 500 people!! It was a sales conference event and I had to relay how we were growing our business.

But the boldest has to be managing my career and ambitions while raising 2 children….There have been many challenges along the way but I am very satisfied with my achievements and have 2 very successful and grounded ‘grown up’ children now!!  To help manage the stress that comes with keeping the work/life balance I like to keep fit and either swim or go to the gym before work in the morning.  It keeps me on an even keel.

Get involved with International Women’s Day at https://www.internationalwomensday.com

Like what you’ve seen? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #BeBoldForChange and Linkedin at npower Business

What goes into your business energy bill?

We know that you can sometimes be a little surprised by your energy bills, and wonder where some of the costs come from. That’s why we wanted to clearly explain what makes up your bill.

Watch this video to find out more about your Business energy.

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Like what you’ve seen? Why not join us on twitter @npowerbusiness #energytogrow and Linkedin at npower Business

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Have your say in our Business Voice panel

Join our Business Voice panel!

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Business Voice is an online Community Panel created by npower Business. As a business energy user, you’re  welcome to join, whether you’re supplied by npower or any other energy company.

Our aim is to understand more about the issues that matter to UK businesses, so the more business that get involved, the better!

group at deskOnce you’ve joined, you’ll have the opportunity to complete surveys, share ideas through discussion forums, get involved in focus groups and join in with other creative tasks.

We then use the views and feedback you provide to help improve our services and the overall npower customer experience, and also to present ideas and suggestions to the energy regulator, Ofgem.

Companies who get involved in these activities are entered into a monthly prize draw to win some Amazon vouchers. For some projects everyone who takes part gets a reward!

Interested? Sign up now at: https://businessvoice.npower.com/

Power Cut? Who you gonna call…..

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People often contact their energy supplier when they have a power cut, which isn’t always the right thing to do. Many energy companies only supply the electricity and don’t actually distribute it.

Last week the electricity network operators launched a special phone number to call if you have a power cut. You can call 105 free of charge and no matter who you are supplied by. They will put you through to your local network operator to find out what may be causing your power outage.

This short video helps to explain:

Who are the network operators?

In England, Wales and Scotland, there are six Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) and multiple Independent Distribution Network Operators (IDNOs) who are responsible for making sure that homes and businesses have electricity 24/7. These DNOs and IDNOs joined forces to create the electricity network operators.

If you want to find out who your local network operator is, you can use the electricity network operators postcode checker – http://www.powercut105.com/findoperator or you can see a list here: http://www.powercut105.com/FindOperator#alldno

You can find out more about network operators by visiting the Energy Networks Association website.

Like what you’ve read? Why not join us on twitter@npowerbusiness #energytogrow and Linkedin at npower Business