It’s estimated that online cyber-crime is costing Northern Ireland businesses up to £100m each year. 2015 has seen its fair share of high profile cyber-attacks including major incidents with Talk Talk, Vodafone and Morrisons.
The bad news is that it doesn’t matter if your business is large or small to fraudsters and hackers as they are willing and increasingly able to target both.
TalkTalk, the phone and broadband provider, recently revealed it had been subject to a cyber-attack in which personal and banking details had been accessed by hackers. Initially TalkTalk did not know how much of the accessed customer information was encrypted, which illustrates the sophistication of the security breech.
Unfortunately for TalkTalk this was not the first time customers data has been at risk. In August, the company revealed its mobile sales site had been targeted and had a personal data breached. And in February, customers were warned about scammers who had managed to steal thousands of account numbers and names.
As well as external security measures, internal measures are also required. Just look at last year’s data theft within the supermarket chain Morrisons which saw an employee being charged with the theft of payroll data relating to thousands of members of staff. The employee was charged with an offence under the Computer Misuse Act and another under the Data Protection Act and cost Morrisons over £2m to rectify
According to technology firm Equiniti, over the next decade cyber-attacks will pose the biggest threat to companies in Northern Ireland and has urged local businesses to prioritise investing in cyber-security to defend against attacks from hackers and reduce fraudulent activity.
There are a number of ways these criminals are targeting businesses, including ‘phishing’ attacks in which they ask for personal information to access services, such as credit card fraud. Fraudsters are increasingly using fake emails and websites to target individuals and businesses to get this information including asking for tax payments or updating personal online details. There was a recent incident of the woman from Co Down who was conned out of almost £80,000 by an elaborate internet scam that involves fraudsters intercepting an email conversation between two firms or a firm and a client which contained banking details.
By taking some simple steps and practising safe behaviours you can help reduce the risk of online threats to your business. Key activities include keeping your software up to date as these updates contain vital security upgrades that keep your devices and business information safe; use strong passwords made up of lower and upper case letters, numbers and symbols; delete suspicious emails as they may contain fraudulent requests for information or links to viruses; use anti-virus software to prevent viruses or malware and make sure that your staff are trained, so that they are aware of cyber security threats and how to deal with them.
In light of the dramatic increases in cyber-attacks, it is recommended that businesses invest in further security measures. A next-generation firewall (NGFW) brings additional context to the firewall’s decision-making process by providing it with the ability to understand the details of the Web application traffic passing through it and takes action to block traffic that might exploit vulnerabilities. This will add another layer of security to your business.
With hackers and fraudsters always on the lookout for potential targets it is better for businesses to act before it is too late. A serious cyber-attack can almost bring a business to the point of closure, so don’t run the risk of this happening to your company and act now.
First Published: 24/11/15
Image courtesy of Anusorn P nachol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net