How you can beat cyber criminals

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Cyber criminals

The threat of cyber crime continues to be faced by businesses across the UK and no industry is immune from these dangers.

It's therefore imperative for business leaders to remain vigilant against online threats; however, in the modern, interconnected world where the majority of companies have at least some online presence, this can sometimes be easier said than done.

Business security therefore remains one of the most pressing concerns for many organisations, with figures published as part of the latest 'Facing the Cyber Risk' survey from Lloyds highlighting how more than half (53 per cent) of UK companies remain fearful of a future data breach.

Almost every business today relies on some form of technology to streamline its operations and to interact with customers and clients alike, but this openness to the outside world comes with a considerable degree of risk.

That said, awareness of the implications of a data breach remain subdued among many business leaders, with Lloyds reporting that just 64 per cent of companies understand that a significant loss of data could result in regulatory investigation.

At the same time, just 58 per cent understand the potential for financial losses, 57 per cent are aware of a likely drop in share price and only 13 per cent are aware of the potential loss in customers that a mishandled attack could precipitate.

How prepared are you?

According to the 'Cyber Security: Ensuring businesses are ready for the 21st century' report from the Institute of Directors (IoD), while 95 per cent of organisations agree that developing a robust cyber security practice is integral to their business, almost half (45 per cent) do not have a cyber security strategy currently in place.

Furthermore, in the event of a cyber attack, 40 per cent of respondents stated they would not know where to turn for support and to report any loss of data. This is a particularly worrisome statistic, given the fact that the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will require all victims of cyber crime to detail any breaches of their infrastructure to their respective supervisory authority within 72 hours of realisation.

Responding to the latest data on cyber crime and business risk, Lloyd's chief executive Inga Beale stated: "It is reassuring that responsibility for cyber risk is sitting at the most senior level of businesses, but it is clear that too many firms do not believe that the dangers of a breach will severely impact them.

"I'm afraid we no longer live in a world where you can prevent breaches taking place, instead it is about how you manage them and what measures you have in place to protect your business and importantly, your customers. As recent events have shown, hard-earned reputations can be lost in a flash if you do not have the correct plans in place."

What can firms do?

The focus for many organisations has therefore now shifted to how best to offset this risk and there are a number of practical steps that the IoD suggests can help in this regard.

According to the body, creating a system of checks and balances within an organisation to offset the risk of data breach is important. This means changing employee behaviour and ensuring individuals use different passwords for all aspects of their work.

In addition, companies should employ a virtual private network (VPN) when sending emails or other confidential information over public Wi-Fi, while implementing mechanisms to determine the legitimacy of all invoices before payment is also advised.

Other measures suggested by the IoD to bolster cyber security include carrying out in-depth preparation for the introduction of GDPR - understanding what exactly it will mean for your business - as well as running cyber attack simulations to boost readiness in the event of an actual attack.

Regular cyber awareness training is also suggested for all staff and organisations should regularly scrutinise their cloud and server suppliers to ensure their processes are all up to date and adequate to ensure compliance with GDPR.

Finally, offering incentives to employees to spot false invoices or emails and to immediately flag these with their superiors can help to foster an atmosphere of vigilance for all. This should be combined with encouraging an open and honest approach to human error that can help to ensure a reduction in cyber risk.

As part of the IoD's report, Richard Berry, deputy chief constable and cyber security lead at the National Police Chiefs' Council, concluded: "The fast-changing digital world presents challenges to us all in both a positive and a negative way.

"The crime figures show how cyber-related incidents are now the majority of all reported crime, and the help of business to combat this is vital to the UK."