The frequency of cyber attacks is increasing rapidly — and it’s not just the big corporations that are being targeted. Of course, most of the stories that make the news are the ones involving household name companies — you only have to cast your mind back to January of this year to remember the Lloyds TSB attack, in which hackers potentially blocked around 20 million customers from accessing their bank accounts — but companies of all shapes and sizes are coming under attack from hackers and online criminals.
According to recent research, UK businesses were subjected to around 230,000 cyber attacks each throughout 2016, with an average of 1,000 attacks per day breaching individual companies’ firewalls. The total cost of fighting against and recovering from these attacks can be astronomical, too: a 2016 report by Business Matters found that UK businesses lost a total of £34 billion due to various forms of cyber attack.
These statistics will only continue to rise as hackers find different ways of breaking through technological barriers, exploiting weak IT infrastructures and taking advantage of a lack of knowledge among staff.
It’s always been difficult for businesses to deal effectively with cyber-attacks, let alone predict when they’re about to happen. In an attempt to preemptively block the threat, many businesses install virus scanning software on all their machines and implement firewalls for their internet connections. But in today’s digital landscape, this simply isn’t enough to be able to defend against the level of sophistication that cyber criminals are capable of.
The importance of showing diligence
The consequences of businesses leaving themselves open to cyber-attacks can be potentially catastrophic. Just look at the infamous Talk Talk case, for instance. In October 2015, the UK-based internet service provider found itself subjected to a ‘significant and sustained’ cyber attack, in which more than 150,000 of its customers had their personal details compromised. But this was just the tip of the iceberg: in February 2016 it was reported that the company had lost more than 100,000 customers as a result of the attack, and in October 2016 the company received a £400,000 fine for its ‘failure to implement the most basic cyber security measures’.
With this in mind, all businesses should have cyber security as their number one priority. They need to mitigate the risks associated with cyber-attacks and make sure they’re protected from top to bottom, but they often lack the necessary expertise to do so. That’s why the most effective way of tackling these cyber security issues is to work with an IT service provider that offers cyber-vulnerability detection as a service.
In a nutshell, the benefit of this solution is that businesses can work with a team of experts who has the requisite knowledge and expertise to identify and fix all of the issues within any IT infrastructure, delivering a much higher chance of protection in the short and long term.
Five reasons detection is crucial
However, on a more specific level, there are five main reasons why cyber-vulnerability detection is so crucial for businesses:
Risks — despite the frequency at which cyber-attacks occur, there’s still a frightening lack of awareness amongst businesses of the holes in their IT systems. Because these vulnerabilities are intangible, businesses simply cannot see just how open they are to attack, and if they can’t see the dangers, how do they know how to protect themselves? However, an expert IT team can help to shine a light on these vulnerabilities, identifying them and proposing solutions. This provides businesses with a much better chance of avoiding any negative impact from a cyber-attack.
Cost — there are many that will dismiss cyber-vulnerability detection as an unnecessary luxury. However, before doing so, businesses should consider the fact that not having cyber-vulnerability detection could prove to be far more expensive in the long term. Not only do businesses have to pay for the cost of IT recovery following a cyber-attack, but they also need to consider the cost of lost data and productivity. Plus, with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect in 2018, organisations could be hit with fines of up to 4 per cent of their entire global turnover if they suffer from a data breach that could have been avoided. When you combine all of this together, you can start to understand that the long-term financial gain is considerable.
Frequency — as soon as a business is hit with a cyber attack, it becomes far more likely that it will be targeted again — usually in quick succession. Once a hacker finds a vulnerability in a system, they will distribute this information to a wider network of hackers who will seek to take advantage of this gap as swiftly as possible. For businesses to avoid significant damage, they must ensure that they are not exposed in the first place.
Sophistication — hackers are getting more sophisticated and inconspicuous by the day. Take the Talk Talk case we mentioned earlier. This wasn’t carried out by a security expert or IT guru, but a 17-year-old boy from Norwich who hacked the company’s system while (whilst) sitting at home. As the individuals behind these attacks become harder to detect, businesses must stay safe by being more proactive in protecting themselves against future threats.
Reputation — it’s very rare for cyber attacks to go unnoticed by the public these days. Not only do they appear in the news headlines more frequently, but ransomware attacks make it clear to the wider contacts in your system that you’ve been hacked. This means that business reputations are at stake, and the only way to maintain them is to prevent attacks from happening in the first place.
As the costs and risks associated with cyber attacks continue to increase, businesses simply cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to the cyber security measures they have in place. Cyber vulnerability detection is an essential part of maintaining IT safety and preventing attacks from occurring, and by choosing to have an expert IT team in charge of this service, optimal safety can be guaranteed.
Gavin Russell is CEO of Wavex.