The recent ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) terrorist attacks in Paris have highlighted cyber-security as a serious issue across the world. The UK’s government has decided to create a cyber-security force to increase intelligence about similar attacks occurring in this country. Businesses should follow Whitehall’s lead and initiate new strategies to strengthen cyber-security.
Doubling cyber-security spend
Engadget reported that the UK government recently revealed that ISIS is planning to launch cyber-attacks on vital infrastructure across the country. UK Chancellor George Osborne has announced that the government has decided to double its public spending on cyber-security. Whitehall will devote £1.9 billion in funds per year until 2020, to build “elite cyber-security forces” to fight off hackers.
Osborne also said that £165 million of the allotted funding will be used to finance a UK version of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). This is a US governmental agency that funds private companies, so that they can create new online counter-attack strategies against hackers, terrorists, criminals and rogue states. He was quoted by Bloomberg saying that “we need those who would harm us to know that we will defend ourselves robustly. And that we have the means to do so.”
Businesses and cyber-security
Businesses across the UK need to adopt the same approach when it comes to cyber-security. The rise of e-commerce means that companies handle sensitive customer information on a daily basis. Research from think-tank CEBR and computer security group Veracode indicates that cyber-attacks cost British industry around £34 billion every year.
The majority of this sum (£118 billion) comes from the revenues that companies lose from successful cyber-attacks. Igniyte previously cited research which showed that 89% of consumers will start doing business with your competitors following a bad customer service experience. Therefore if you allow a customer’s private information to fall into the hands of hackers, they’re going to complain, and this will cause you to lose additional revenue.
How likely are people likely to see a customer complaint from a cyber-attack? With the rise of modern online communication channels such as social media, which allow anybody to express their displeasure on the internet, pretty easily. These complaints will be read by other consumers; Bright Local’s 2015 Local Consumer Review Survey shows that 92% read online reviews to assess local businesses.
Customers aren’t the only ones who see online reviews as trusted sources of information; so do Google. If a customer complains because hackers bypassed your cyber-security to access their personal information, their online review will likely appear on the first page of a Google search for your business’ name. This will ensure that unwanted content is seen by a large share of your consumer base; as a result you may lose business and ultimately, the revenue your firm needs to thrive.
Tips to bolster cyber-security
Therefore you need to ensure that your firm prioritises cyber-security. This will prevent hackers from accessing customer’s private information, and damaging your reputation online. Here are a few tips you can use to develop an effective cyber-security strategy:
- Carry out a risk assessment: Where are you most vulnerable to a cyber-attack? Before you bolster cyber-security, carry out a risk assessment. This will show you where you need to improve your defences, so you can strategically introduce the measures needed to improve your business’ cyber-security.
- Encrypt data: A Fortune article pointed out that businesses have been encrypting data for years to prevent identity theft. ‘Encryption’ refers to the “process of converting information or data into a code that obscures information so it cannot be read without the correct key (or keys) used to decipher or decrypt the message.” Therefore you can use it to safeguard the communication channels your business uses to relay sensitive information.
- Use secure databases: It’s vital that you monitor what information you store in databases, as they’re a favoured target for hackers. We’d suggest that you opt for a separate database (with firewall protection) than the one that is automatically generated when you install software, to ensure your information is secure.
- Invest in antivirus and malware protection: It may seem obvious but so many businesses don’t do it. You should ensure that the devices which handle sensitive data are fitted with antivirus and malware protection programmes. This will make it harder for cyber-criminals to infect them with viruses they can use to steal sensitive information from your venture.
- Establish security best practises: You should restrict the number of people that handle company information to a bare minimum; this will limit the likelihood of a hack. Train these employees to follow security best practices such as changing passwords every month and using additional authentication processes, to add an extra layer of protection.
Every day cyber-criminals across the world are finding new ways to steal data. Don’t just implement these measures and leave it at that. Constantly strive to protect your company’s sensitive information, or hackers could find a new way to breach your safeguards, access your data and ultimately, damage your venture’s reputation online.