Cyber Security

‘Secure by default’ in the age of converged security

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What is cyber security?

Cyber-attacks are one of the defining security threats of our age and cyber security a growing priority for business and governments alike.

The internet’s transformation of both our personal lives and the world of commerce has created boundless opportunities for hackers with a wide range of motives and an even broader array of tools. From phishing and clickjacking to ransomware, direct-access attacks and denial of service attacks (DoS) the threats keep on evolving and emerging. It’s a game of cat and mouse as the criminals become more sophisticated and cyber security professionals try to keep up.

The stakes are high. Lloyd’s of London has warned that a major cyber-attack could wreak havoc that costs as much as £92bn to remedy – more than the repair bill for Hurricane Katrina, costliest natural disaster in UoS histry. And ‘destruction of service’ attacks could “disrupt the internet itself” and destroy businesses in one fell swoop, according to research from Cisco.

GDPR, which came into force across Europe in May 2018, raises the stakes further still. The fines for data protection breaches – including deficient cyber security protections – are 79 times higher than under the previous regime: €10 million (£7.9 million) or 2% of an organisation’s global turnover.

A government survey of the FTSE 350 has revealed 68% of board members have not been trained to deal with cyber security incidents, potentially leaving their businesses in danger. In the most recent Cyber Security Breaches Survey carried out by the UK Government, it was reported that 46% of businesses have had a cyber attack or breaches in the last 12 months. These statistics will raise concerns amongst businesses that the growing risk is not necessarily being matched by the security procedures being put in place.

If the ubiquity of smartphones have created even more opportunities for criminals, then the internet of things has ramped up the threat further still, with everyday household objects now connected to the internet. In 2016, some 1.5m IoT devices – mostly security cameras – were hijacked during a DDoS attack. Even our cars are becoming vulnerable.

Building systems are also increasingly network-connected too, so even buildings can be hacked. As Sarb Sembhi, an expert in cyber security and advocate of the convergence of security teams details in his recent article, physical security professionals need to understand cyber security too – which they can do at IFSEC International 2020.

Cyber security investment

The number of cyber attacks in the UK continues to grow each year. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has defended against more than 600 cyber attacks in the past year alone.

It seems there is a rising number of attacks on small businesses, due to the preconception that they will likely place less importance on protective measures. According to research from SecureTeam, 43% of UK cyber attacks target small businesses, so there is a growing importance to put measures in place to stop these attacks from being successful.  Take a look at the infographic here to find out more about the rising costs of cyber attacks on small businesses.

Overall, however, it does appear cyber security investment figures have increased. Research from Specops Software, a password management and authentication solution vendor, indicates that businesses in construction have increased their spending by around 188%, while finance and insurance firms invested the most – averages coming to £22,050.

In addition, as the Cyber Security Breaches 2020 Survey details, organisations are now beginning to see the value of investing in their cyber security plans, and have increased their actions to identify and manage risks. For instance, eight in 10 businesses now believe cyber security to be a high priority, while 38% of businesses have written policies in the event of an attack, up from 29% in 2016.


Protecting from cyber attacks

While cyber attackers are constantly developing new methods of strategies, some common examples of cyber attack protection can include:

  • Reviewing your IT estate: Carry out a regular assessment of IT systems to identify any vulnerabilities that may be targeted and exposed by opportunistic cyber criminals.
  • Education and governance: Create a formal document which establishes the firm’s best practices and policies on cyber security. Within this, give employees clear guidance on what they can and cannot do on the company’s IT devices/systems/networks to create an all-encompassing culture of security.
  • Safeguard and protect: Keep anti-virus software up-to-date, apply the latest security patches and periodically change passwords across IT estate.

‘Ethical hacking’ is also a method businesses can employ. Understandably, many are nervous about the prospect of giving a third-party access to its systems, but this engagement can provide some real value. It offers opportunities to learn where the weaknesses are in your systems, the effectiveness of your security systems and the readiness of your IT team to respond, in order to better understand where your security budget should be spent and how compliant you are with industry regulations. You can find out more about ethical hacking here.

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