We need to talk about cybersecurity

You’re never too small to be the victim of cybercrime

Cybercrime poses a real and persistent threat to business, government, and financial institutions. Recent years have seen a significant rise in cyber attacks on businesses large and small. TalkTalk, Hilton Hotels, JD Wetherspoon, and most recently Yahoo have all been on the wrong end of such attacks.

In a world where profit has shifted from product to data, cybersecurity should now be a major priority regardless of the size of the organisation. Without proper security systems in place, companies can find themselves vulnerable to hackers and cyber criminals. But how much of a threat are cyber criminals?

According to a survey by Juniper Research, half of all small businesses in the UK have suffered a cybersecurity breach. The survey also found that ¾ of SMEs consider their IT systems to be totally secure. Nine out of 10 big businesses across 346 European countries have been attacked by cyber criminals in the past five years, according to research by the Lloyds of London insurance market. But despite this, less than half are concerned about future attacks. In short, businesses believe that they are far more secure than they really are. Why? Whilst most businesses are aware of the importance of  data, many don’t fully understand how to protect it, or the implications of failing to do so. Creating robust security systems requires time, effort and money, and despite the long list of companies that have suffered massively as a result of hacking, many businesses seem unwilling to invest. In an article published earlier this year, the Guardian reported that SMEs don’t expect to be targeted because of their size. However, hackers are fully aware of this, and it makes small-scale firms an easy target.

The importance of data
The rise of big data has changed so much about how businesses work, but it isn’t all about the boardroom. Just as businesses are transitioning to a digitally driven world, individuals are also embracing digital technologies. With these new technologies comes the risk of cybercrime. Cyber attacks are serious, leading to the misdirection or total destruction of vital info. They can target smartphones, tablets and even smart watches, which are now owned by a large chunk of the global population. Computers, even those with built-in firewall software, can never be totally secure. This is a huge problem for businesses that deal with the personal data of their customers. Cyber criminals primarily hack systems in order to steal money and valuable information, but on a secondary level this compromises the business’s customers and the overall reputation of the company. Think finance – imagine if a hacker, or a group of hackers, found a way into a high street bank’s customer records… And if that wasn’t enough to convince organisations to make sure their systems are secure, there are some hefty penalties in place for complacency. As of 2018, companies within the EU will be liable to fines of up to €20 million under the General Data Protection Regulation. British firms can face fines up to £500,000 under the UK Data Protection Act, and the US is also particularly strict when it comes to securing data. As protecting data becomes more important, board members are only recently starting to recognise how vital it is to have good security.

Disruption caused by cybersecurity
The need to protect data is changing the way organisations think about security. In a survey from Marsh, researchers noted an increase in the understanding of cyber threats among board members. As great as that is, up to now cybersecurity hasn’t been getting the press it needs to shock organisations into sorting out their data and general IT protection. The impact of good cybersecurity systems, in theory, will address vulnerabilities and loopholes in business’ IT set-ups, and give cyber criminals a much harder task. These security systems will need to evolve ahead of the hackers, and put up a constant wall against any digital threats. In light of the hype around cybercrime, the competition between cybersecurity companies (of which there are many) is about to intensify.

It’s pretty clear that cybersecurity is not only a very important issue for all types of businesses, but also for society as a whole. The effects of cyber attacks can be crushing, effecting not only the business itself but the privacy of its customers. In a world where data is everything, corporates must recognise and respond to the need for proper data protection. Researchers may have found an increase in an understanding of why cybersecurity is worth talking about, but hackers aren’t going to go away any time soon. Data is power, and it won’t be long before individuals have to be especially careful about storing personal information, too.

Has your business been effected by cybercrime? What can measures can we take to highlight the importance of a cybercrime strategy? Share your thoughts below