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It has been estimated that around 2.39 million cases of cyber crimes have affected UK businesses over the past 12 months. With data being shared across locations and devices, and cyber attacks becoming increasingly sophisticated, it’s more important than ever to safeguard your business against cyber threats.
However, despite the detrimental risks of a cyber security breach, a survey conducted by Statista found that 56% of UK board members identified cyber security as a priority in 2023. Lack of knowledge and understanding of cyber threats and how to mitigate them could be to blame, as a report from cyber consultants, Savanti, found that 59% of company directors say their board is not very effective in understanding the drivers and impacts of cyber risks.
As a managed IT service provider, we educate businesses of all sizes and types on the cyber threats that pose a risk to their operations and finances, as well as supply a range of comprehensive and advanced solutions to safeguard their data. We’ve seen, first hand, the impact a cyber security breach can have on a business and we’re here to ensure it doesn’t happen to you. As October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, we thought it was a good time to share our knowledge to help you to keep your business secure. We’re going to explore the current cyber security landscape, bolster your understanding of cyber threats and outline what you can do today to safeguard the future of your business.
So, before we go any further, let’s ensure we’ve got clear understanding of what cyber security actually covers within a business context. Cyber security covers the protection of systems, hardware, software and data from cyber threats posed by cybercriminals and accidental data breaches. The aim of cyber security is to implement strategies, processes and solutions to prevent cyber attacks and to avoid data breaches caused by human error.
Cyber security can be broken down into several facets to cover different elements of a business’s infrastructure:
Let’s start by taking a look at the current landscape of business cyber security and the biggest challenges businesses are facing in 2023. The good news is that more businesses are investing in digital transformation with global digital transformation spending projected to reach $3.4 trillion by 2026. This is really positive for businesses around the world, as digital transformation unlocks the necessary processes, technology and solutions to streamline business operations, nurture business growth and create new markets.
This increased adoption of digital transformation has required the evolution of corporate IT architectures, which are great for the progression of a business, but if not efficiently secured, they provide numerous potential gateways for cyber attacks. Insecure cloud environments, accessing data remotely, connecting large numbers of devices via IoT (internet of things), can all act as a doorway into your business data if not efficiently protected. So, the main challenge that businesses need to combat is taking advantage of everything these advanced technologies can offer, without compromising their business security.
When it comes to their targets, cyber criminals don’t discriminate. From small businesses to national organisations and global enterprises, cybercriminals are consistently finding their way into insecure systems and the results can be devastating. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:
On the 8th August 2023, the UK Electoral Commission revealed that they had fallen victim of an advanced and complex cyber attack, which could have exposed the data of more than 40 million voters. Cybercriminals had managed to access the Electoral Commission’s file sharing and email systems, revealing the names, addresses, email addresses and other confidential information. After identifying the attack in October 2022 and assessing the suspicious activity, it was discovered that the cybercriminals had first accessed the data in August 2021 – meaning that they had access to confidential data for a year. Despite being able to identify which systems were accessible, the Electoral Commission were unable to discover the exact files that may or may not have been accessed. Of course, a hack of this scale and longevity reduces the trust in the affected organisation, which considering the role of the Electoral Commission, trust is not a commodity that can be risked.
In January 2023, the Royal Mail was hit with a ransomware attack that affected their IT systems and disrupted operations. The hackers, a group known as LockBit, demanded a ransom of almost £70 million for the decryption key, which Royal Mail refused to pay, the hackers then threatened to publish the stolen details online. This disruption resulted in Royal Mail having to resort to using manual processes and being unable to send parcels overseas, affecting a large number of individuals and small businesses across the UK and abroad. Some of the stolen data was then published on the dark web, although the evidence found in the investigation suggests that none of this data contained financial or sensitive customer information. Although it hasn’t been reported whether Royal Mail paid some form of ransom in order to regain control over their data and to continue operations, the significant disruption caused by the attack resulted in a loss of trust and reputational damage.
The National Cyber Security Centre is a great starting point for business leaders and employees to gain information, understanding and guidance to keep your data and systems safe. The NCSC provides a wealth of resources, articles, and tools for organisations of all types and sizes, so if you’re looking to further your knowledge on cyber security, this is a really good hub of information. Also checking the news for updates on critical cyber threats is also a useful activity to remain aware of any malicious tactics, software or attacks that maybe happening. Another useful resource for information are blogs and articles published by experts within the security and technology industries. Our news and insights section contains a plethora of articles, tips and guidance about cyber security threats, solutions and trends.
Bolstering your knowledge of cyber security threats is incredibly important, but also taking steps to proactively audit your current operations to identify any potential vulnerabilities is a vital step to protect your business. From assessing your current security policies, processes, as well as your response and recovery plans to checking your software, solutions and hardware for potential weaknesses, having sound knowledge of your security measures is key to prevent an attack. If you don’t have the resource to complete this review yourself, you can engage with a knowledgeable IT or cyber security provider to complete a review for you. This is a great option, as you’ll have access to a team of experts who will explore every facet of your business’s security for complete peace of mind.
So, now we’ve had a look at what cyber security is and the key elements of a business’s cyber security strategy, let’s take a look at some common cyber threats, so you know how to identify them.
Phishing is a common method for cyber attacks that is commonly instigated via emails. This cyber threat involves cyber criminals sending deceptive emails to employees that look like they have been sent from a legitimate organisation or trusted entity, such as HMRC or a bank. These emails can contain malicious links or attachments that could infect your business systems with malware. Another tactic is including a link to a legitimate-looking site that is designed to steal credentials via a bogus login page or financial information through fake payment gateways.
In days gone by, it was easier to distinguish a phishing email from a legitimate one – dodgy logos, typos and off-brand colours were all key giveaways. Now, phishing emails are looking more like the real deal than ever before, so it’s possible for even the most conscientious of employees to fall victim to them.
This is a method of cyber attack that can result in particularly devastating consequences, as we saw with the Royal Mail example earlier on in this article. Ransomware attacks involve the use of malware that encrypts business data and renders it inaccessible. Cyber criminals will then demand a ransom in return for the decryption key that will unlock your data. Ransoms can be financially devastating and there is no guarantee that the cyber criminal will return access to your data, even if you pay it. This threat can lead to data loss, operational disruption, and financial damage.
Another element of this attack that can cause further damage to your business, is the chance that the cyber criminals will release the stolen data to other cybercriminals or publish it on the dark web. If a cybercriminal manages to steal sensitive data relating to your customers, such as contact information or financial details, the danger posed by this attack goes beyond your business and threatens your customers too. They could leverage the stolen information to impersonate your customers to steal money, log in to other accounts and other malicious activity. On top of the financial impact this kind of cyber threat can cause, if a cyber attack resulted in the stealing of sensitive information, you could also be at risk of paying fines due to breaching data protection regulations, such as GDPR.
This relates to risks posed, either maliciously or inadvertently by your team. Insider threats include team members stealing sensitive information for their own gain – such as using a company’s financial details to make purchases, sharing sensitive information with cyber criminals or purposely infecting a business’s system with malware. Accidental insider threats can be team members not choosing effective passwords or demonstrating a lack of care when it comes to protecting the data they are responsible for, which results in a cyber criminal gaining unauthorised access to data. Accidental insider threats are usually as a result of a lack of training and awareness of good cyber security hygiene and best practices, so it’s important that consistent training and cyber security policies are readily available to your team.
Prevention is always better than cure, so a key step all businesses should take to safeguard their data is to ensure that they are employing the right cyber security solutions within their business to mitigate the risk of an attack and should an attack occur, have the ability to respond promptly. Let’s take a look at some important security solutions and processes your business should employ to stay secure.
A Firewall is a network security device that monitors and filters network traffic according to the security policies established by your business. It essentially works as a barrier that sits between your business’s internal network and the public internet. If data or activity meets the parameters of a threat, according to your security policies, it is discarded and prevented from entering your network.
An intrusion detection system (IDS) is a device or software application that monitors your network to identify malicious activity or policy violations. This prevents threats from infiltrating your system without you knowing and allows you to respond to a threat quickly. Some intrusion detection systems can respond to the detected intrusion once it has been identified – these systems are known as intrusion prevention systems.
Encryption renders data unreadable without decryption keys. This means that even if a cybercriminal manages to steal data from your business, they are unable to read or use it. Data encryption can be used to protect data both when it is in transit (moving through or between systems) and when it is at rest (sitting in storage).
One of the biggest risks for your data is out of date software, as it will contain gaps and vulnerabilities that a cyber criminal can use to enter your systems and steal data. Ensuring that all software, applications, and platforms are regularly updated is vital to avoid patches and vulnerabilities.
Knowledge is power. Educating your employees about cyber security, potential risks and best practices, is key to avoid accidental data breaches and access to cyber criminals. Ensuring that training is regularly provided to both new and existing staff means your they are always conforming to your cyber security practices, can identify potential risks and avoid engaging in risky online behaviour.
Multi-factor authentication provides an extra layer of protection when gaining access to platforms, devices and applications. It requires a user to provide multiple forms of authentication, such as a password, biometrics or a code using multiple devices before being allowed to access data. For example, a user could be asked to provide a password within a login page and then be asked to type in a code sent to their smartphone to prove that they are an authorised user. Utilising this method means that even if a criminal has managed to uncover a password to a platform, they will still not be able to gain entry, as they will not be able to offer up a second form of authentication. It’s also useful for mobile devices and laptops, as if the item is stolen the criminal will not have access to all the forms of authentication necessary to gain access to the data stored on that device.
Storing a backup of your data in a secure environment is vital, should the worst happen, and your business loses access to data or data is destroyed. Cloud storage is a key solution to store backups of your data, as it can be easily accessed by authorised personnel, but it is safeguarded by advanced security protocols and solutions. With data backed up securely, should your business fall victim to a cyber attack. However, it is key to ensure that the environment in which you store your backups is sufficiently protected by cyber security measures, so this cannot be targeted by cyber criminals and cause disruption.
Partnering with a knowledgeable managed security services provider to monitor your security infrastructure, conduct threat assessments and provide 24/7 support can provide the ultimate peace of mind. Your business can benefit from around-the-clock monitoring of your infrastructure and systems, to ensure threats are detected and managed in real-time, to reduce the risk of data breaches and loss. You will also have access to a team of seasoned security experts, who possess years of experience and expertise on current cyber security threats, trends and strategies.
Relying on managed security services, also minimises strain on your internal IT resources. Spending time monitoring and managing a business’s cyber security is a time-consuming process. With this responsibility relieved, your internal IT team has more time to spend on other tasks that can provide more value to your business.
From comprehensive, expert-led cyber security audits and assessments to our range of advanced security solutions and complete managed IT services with 24/7 support, you can rely on us to ensure that your business is secured against cyber threats and criminals. We’re proud to hold powerful partnerships and accreditations with the industry’s biggest cyber security solution providers, including Microsoft and WatchGuard, which is testament to our knowledge, experience and the quality of our service. So, if you’re looking to start strengthening your business’s cyber security today, why not speak to one of our specialists and book in a FREE review of your cyber security?
Visit our contact page or call us on 0344 875 8880.