Taking precautions against cyber attacks is vitally important for any business with an online presence. So if you host business-critical applications online, being up-to-speed on the latest threats is essential. Downtime after a cyber-attack will have a massive impact on revenue and productivity, not to mention the negative impact on the integrity of your brand, lost customer confidence and the cost of recovering systems.
Just a quick glance at recent figures is enough to see why cyber security is at the forefront of people’s minds, with large scale attacks making headlines on a regular basis.
In a three-month period in 2017, there were 188 high-level attacks in the UK. In fact, 2017 saw the biggest attack in history as the WannaCry ransomware attack hit the NHS, and 150 other countries across the globe.
With seven out of ten organisations believing that their security risk increased in that same year, it’s easy to see how cyber attacks have become such big news. Add to this the introduction of GDPR, where data breaches can now incur more significant fines, and you have a number of persuasive arguments for upping your security game and tightening your business’s security measures and processes.
In today’s tech world, developments move at an incredibly fast pace, and cyber-attacks are no different; they’re ever-evolving, increasingly sophisticated, and according to an in-depth report from Cisco Systems, come in many different guises.
This makes it a particularly difficult task for businesses and developers to keep up with the latest threats and to action solutions. But by being aware of some security basics, you’ll be in a stronger position to make the right choices to protect your business.
Some of the most common threats include:
Malicious software (malware) – targeted to disrupt, damage or gain access to computer systems, these attacks can leave you at risk of data breaches, and picking up a big bill for repairing damaged systems.
Ransomware – this type of malware holds the host to ransom for a sum of money. Until that money is paid, systems are offline or limited. WannaCry is the most famous example of a ransomware attack, which crippled the NHS’s services causing huge disruption to services and a widespread loss of confidence.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) – this is a flooding of a network by multiple outside sources (among other techniques). By doing this, attackers can cause systems to fail, leaving legitimate users unable to interact with the system.
Data breaches – not a specific type of attack, but there is big money to be made by hackers from the illegal or covert gathering of sensitive, protected or confidential data. Perhaps the best-known example of data gathering and misuse in recent years is Cambridge Analytica. Whilst this is not a cyber-attack threat in the traditional sense, businesses need to take steps to prevent the copying, transmitting, viewing or storing data without proper permission, to avoid crippling fines, as well as a massive loss of brand and customer confidence, taking Facebook in the Cambridge Analytica case as an example.
Cyber-physical attacks – this type of malware targets critical infrastructure, like power grids. By confusing the system, service is interrupted. This was done in 2017 to take down the power supply in Kiev, Ukraine, leaving huge sections of the city in darkness. Aside from causing catastrophic disruption and the costs involved to rectify it, the effect on consumer confidence in light of such attacks is hugely damaging.
These high-level examples give you a brief insight into the massive job we have on our hands as hackers find new, innovative ways to target IT systems.
The answer for any company online is to find advanced security tools to handle the threat of cyber breaches. This, along with choosing the right hosting provider, will help you develop the right plan should the worst happen.
And if you need some positive inspiration on that front, GitHub demonstrated that perfectly in light of their 2017 DDoS attack; within ten minutes their system had called for help from their DDoS mitigation service, and a counterattack was launched. Within eight minutes the hackers withdrew.
Cyber-crime is constantly evolving and some of the advances made by criminals, and changes in the climate around security, are trending topics under discussion in 2018:
Weaponised AI – one of the most celebrated and talked about areas in IT today, Artificial Intelligence (AI) has opened the doors for imaginative concepts across the business world. AI could also have a major role to play in combatting cyber-attacks by using real-time network monitoring to unearth abnormal activity.
However, this same technology can be used for malicious purposes. Imagine sophisticated phishing emails using AI bots to craft emails with a writing style to match each type of contact in your address book, for instance, and you get just a small insight into what could be possible.
GDPR data breaches – costly fines are part and parcel of data breaches with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Strict regulations include penalties of up to 4% of global revenues or €20m, depending on what’s higher. Plus, you’ll need to notify the EU government within 72 hours of a breach to avoid another fine of €10m or 2% of your global revenue. Data protection and encryption through tools like HyTrust can effectively secure sensitive personal data.
State-sponsored hacking – governments are also using cyber-attacks as a new type of warfare for political and financial gain and espionage. By hacking into networks, often those owned by manufacturers, government-funded organisations can steal data. Recent reports reveal that 48% of UK manufacturers have experienced a cyber security incident. This heightened state of alert has resulted in calls from the GCHQ’s cyber defence chief to tighten measures across essential systems in light of potential Russian attacks.
Threats of more sophisticated cyber-physical attacks on major infrastructure, and politically-motivated attacks on the run-up to elections have all been cited as top areas for concern within the technology community.
The threat of cyber attacks is now ever more pervasive in our daily lives, as well as a critical consideration for the safe running of online businesses.
Cyber attacks are becoming more commonplace and increasingly sophisticated. As a business, having a clear cyber security plan in place to combat this environment of heightened threat is crucial. Staying up-to-date with the latest news and potential risks is just one step towards taking action, but you’ll also need the right support to protect your business as fully as possible.
Due to the ever-changing nature of cyber attacks and the new ways hackers infiltrate our systems, expert support will give you the peace of mind that your cyber security plan is under constant review.
By choosing a hosting provider with insightful knowledge on the latest developments and threats, you can effectively plan for the future, whatever comes your way.
Just make sure that provider has a comprehensive security solution, or that you have the internal expertise and resource to manage relationships with specialist cyber security providers to give you the extra protection you need. Whatever your preferred route, don’t leave your plan to chance. Ultimately, it could make all the difference.
Anthony advises and guides customers and designs our cloud solutions. He’s literally made of VMware.
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