The old saying goes: “failing to prepare is preparing to fail”. Never has a truer word been spoken when it comes to protecting your business against the threat of Cyber-attacks.
Professional boxers don’t rest on their laurels before they enter the ring, hoping their opponent will be as underprepared as them; they leave no stone unturned to ensure they’re ready for battle. And that’s exactly what a Cyber-attack is: a battle between your business and the Cybercriminals that target it. If you fail to prepare for this rapidly growing and sophisticated threat, you might suffer a knockout blow – because you can rest assured, they will be doing everything in their power to defeat you.
Cybercriminals’ determination to manipulate their way into company data has proliferated Cyber-attacks against businesses. The stats speak for themselves: almost half (46%) of UK businesses report experiencing Cybersecurity breaches or attacks in the last 12 months. Of those, 32% revealed they were targeted at least once a week in 2020 – up from 22% in 2017.
How are Cyber-attacks being carried out?
Do you know the techniques Cybercriminals are deploying to target businesses like yours? It might be useful to understand, so you can start putting robust measures in place. According to government figures, between 2017 and 2020, there has been a rise in businesses experiencing phishing attacks (from 72% to 86%), and a fall in attacks leveraging viruses or other malware (from 33% to 16%).
We know the methods being used to commit cybercrime are constantly evolving – but how does this manifest itself? Take phishing for example – a Cyber-attack that uses disguised emails as a weapon to harvest credentials or spread malware. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 by sending fraudulent emails that attempt to trick the recipient into clicking on malicious links or attachments using the pandemic as bait – according to recent figures, COVID-19 related email scams surged 667% in March alone.
How do you know if you’ve been targeted by a Cyber-attack?
Just because you’re the target of a Cyber-attack, doesn’t mean you will automatically realize – especially if you don’t have proactive Cybersecurity controls in place. According to an IBM study, on average it takes around 197 days to identify, and 69 days to contain a data breach.
Being surreptitious is the name of the game when it comes to compromising digital data, so here are a few tell-tale signs that your network has been targeted by an attack:
- Ransomware message: this is a message that locks you out of your computer or data and demands payment – usually in the form of Lockbit ransomware because it’s untraceable – to regain access. OK, so this isn’t surreptitious at all, but some do masquerade as legitimate entities.
Action: if you fall victim to a ransomware message, don’t pay! Instead, revert to the most recent backup of your data.
- Remote control: if there’s any indication that someone is remotely accessing your computer or data, such as moving files on your Cloud Drive or unexpected log-in attempts from unsecured devices or locations, you might have fallen victim to a Trojan virus or a remote desktop hack.
Action: immediately disconnect the computer from the network, reset user accounts with new robust passwords, and scan any affected computers for malicious software.
- Suspicious emails: as Cybersecurity defenses become more robust, Cybercriminals are using social engineering techniques to exploit the weakest link in a business’s security chain: people. These unscrupulous individuals typically use phishing techniques to trick unsuspecting email recipients into compromising their security, transferring money, or giving away sensitive information.
Action: embed a proactive security culture within your business, so employees are capable of spotting and reporting this type of activity.
- Suspicious links: unusual redirects or popups could mean a scammer has subverted users and is redirecting them to malicious websites or programs designed to capture confidential information.
Action: Review suspicious emails received, block suspicious links and reset user credentials.
How to fight back
Knowing how to react to a Cyber-attack is handy, but businesses should focus on establishing a proactive Cybersecurity strategy. Don’t restrict yourself to damage control and expose yourself to hefty fines by waiting for an attack to happen before taking action; implement measures that pre-emptively identify security weaknesses, help you keep pace with rapidly evolving threats, and add processes to identify attacks before they occur.
Cybercriminals take their business seriously – and it’s big business, as they attempt to maximize profits using innovative methods to circumvent your defenses. So, let’s find out how your business can get serious about Cybersecurity by hitting the shift button and being more proactive.
Employees are the first line of defense against Cyber-attacks; if they aren’t invested in Cybersecurity, your business will be leaving the door open to a range of potential threats. According to the ENISA, the Cybersecurity culture of an organization refers to “the knowledge, beliefs, perceptions, attitudes, assumptions, norms and values of people regarding Cybersecurity and how they manifest in people’s behavior with information technologies.”
Positive Cybersecurity culture is about embedding relevant security considerations into employees’ day-to-day actions. Adopting a proactive approach to Cybersecurity will engender a resilient culture that develops organically from engaged attitudes and behaviors towards the subject.
Don’t keep making the same mistakes. Outsourcing your Cybersecurity requirements to a third-party provider will help you establish a proactive strategy practically overnight – and embed a positive culture as your partnership evolves. The advantages of partnering with a Cybersecurity specialist are compelling:
- Cost: setting up, recruiting, and managing an in-house Cybersecurity team is an expensive business. Outsourcing packages up the cost of facilities, technologies, salaries, bonuses, and training into a more manageable sum.
- Technical skillset: keeping pace with the sophisticated techniques used to commit cybercrime requires access to sophisticated technical know-how – a skillset that despite being in high demand can be difficult to acquire. Outsourcing automatically provides your business with access to the skills and experience you need to prevent, monitor, detect, and respond to these dynamic threats.
- Time: unlike an in-house team, which takes considerable time to establish – in terms of personnel, training, and technology – outsourcing will accelerate your time to value because effective Cybersecurity solutions can be deployed far quicker.
- Management: your Cybersecurity partner will take full responsibility for the execution and development of your Cyber strategy, allowing your management resources to concentrate on growing your business.
- Business needs: from compliance and governance to potential reputational damage and fines, Cybersecurity is a business risk issue, not just a technology issue. Your Cybersecurity partner’s acute understanding of this ensures they will possess the skills required to communicate and collaborate with different stakeholders. This might include providing your business with access to a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) – which will be much more affordable than adding another full-time C-level position to the wage bill.
The modern CISO has cast the shackles of the IT department and embraced the wider business. As well as implementing technical risk controls – which is their bread and butter – this holistic approach allows them to add value by building trust and fostering a culture of shared cyber risk ownership across the business.
The CISO’s new role as a strategic business leader who integrates at all levels of the organization requires strong communication skills to complement their technical knowledge – making them a vital layer of protection in the fight against the escalating and constantly evolving threat of Cyber-crime.
Katy Hinchcliffe is a highly regarded cybersecurity leader. With more than a decade of experience delivering a broad range of cybersecurity services to enterprise clients for a global IT outsourcer, notably managing the prevent, detect, and respond functions on behalf of Rolls-Royce, Katy is now responsible for developing Littlefish’s Cyber Security practice.