CYBER SECURITY Cyber dangers: hacks, attacks, insider

threats and how to beat them Businesses in the Thames Valley and south face constant threats from cyber breaches and attacks that are intensifying with home-based Covid-19 working. The Business Magazine asks what are the risks, how are companies coping, and what are they changing to deal with a more hostile threat environment?

Four in 10 businesses suffered a cyber-security breach in the past year, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s latest annual Cyber Security Breaches Survey. Around a quarter of those surveyed who had experienced cyber attacks or breaches said they happened at least once a week.

“The most worrying cyber security threats to our business are personal data loss, ransomware and cyber extortion,” said Graham Thomson, chief information security officer at law firm Irwin Mitchell. His fears are shared by most UK CEOs, for whom cyber-security threats were foremost on their list of concerns, second only to pandemics and health crises, according to PwC’s annual UK CEO survey. Yet, despite the undoubted scale of the problem, an IDG Research survey found that nearly 80% of IT and IT security leaders felt their organisations had inadequate security.

What keeps the region’s business leaders awake at night?

Steven Smith, head of sales at Westcoast Cyber, which was established by technology distributor Westcoast in 2020, said businesses need to ask themselves two questions:

‘How does the attacker get in and what are they after?’

For starters, attack methods are multiplying, particularly since lockdown. Barry Remzi, principal consultant at Bridewell Consulting, said: “Some of the more common cyber threats include not having complete visibility of environments and users – 2020 saw a sudden shift to distributed and remote workforces, which many organisations were not prepared for.”

77% of UK CEOs plan to increase their investment in digital transformation

91% of UK CEOs are more concerned than ever about cyber-security threats

Source: PwC Annual UK CEO survey

91% of UK organisations plan to increase their cybersecurity budgets in 2021

78% of UK IT and IT security executives lack confidence in their company’s IT security

Source: IDG Research Services survey

Dennis Murphy, cyber and threat expert at Gateley Legal, referred to the ‘attack surface’ as being very significant and attractive to malicious cyber actors. “Business leaders now realise the devastating consequences of a successful cyber breach,” he said.

A PwC survey of UK workers found many felt vulnerable to cyber crime since the outbreak of Covid-19, with 17% giving working from home as one of the main reasons. Nearly one third said that they had seen an increase in speculative online criminal activity.

Since lockdown, a higher degree of vulnerability is inevitable. Gary Cheetham, chief information security officer and data protection officer at Content Guru, described working from home as being outside the ‘castle’, without a secure office environment ‘moat and drawbridge’ for protection. “Organisations may be unaware of where weaknesses lie,” he observed.

For Bruce Penson, managing director of Pro Drive IT, loss of reputation caused by data breaches is a growing concern for businesses. “Especially in the professional services sector, where new business often comes via word of mouth and referral,” he said.

Attacks aren’t just from opportunistic individuals, warned Steve Groom, chief executive, Vissensa.

‘Organised and state-sponsored cyber crime is a game-changing threat’



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