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Posted by Alfie McDonald on March 18th 2022
Over the last decade, the UK government has led a sustained effort to strengthen and reinforce cyber security on a national level. They’ve endeavoured to raise public awareness about cyber risks, grow the sector, and develop a range of defensive strategies to tackle sophisticated threats.
But what does this mean for your business in 2022?
In this article, we take a deep dive into questions like “what is cyber security?” and “why is cyber security important?” Here we also discuss what cyber security can prevent and offer guidance for finding the best cyber security solutions available to businesses today.
Cyber Security is how individuals and businesses reduce the risk of cyberattacks. Its core function is to mitigate the impact of cyber-attacks on systems, networks, hardware, software, and data. Cyber security involves implementing technology, procedures, and controls to fend off threats originating from external and internal sources.
There are several cyber security controls and procedures used to protect the following five categories:
Networks, Applications, Data, Mobile, and the Cloud
Cyber security works by implementing multi-layered defenses across systems, networks, hardware, software, and data. But to be effective, it requires a holistic approach—whereby employees, processes, and technology fend off attacks harmoniously.
As technology grows across industries and remote working becomes the norm, so does digital vulnerability.
Smartphones, computers, and other devices that access the internet are gateways for cybercriminals. So, as these mediums become even more fundamental to modern life, it’s crucial that we collectively take the necessary steps to mitigate digital risks. That starts with protecting our accounts, data, and devices from cybercriminals.
One need only look at the statistics to realise this is paramount. For instance, the average cost of global data breaches totaled $4.24 million in 2021, which has grown markedly year on year. And it’s not just large enterprises that have felt the consequences of cybercrime, either. In fact, 85 percent of UK businesses said they experienced cyberattacks in 2020/2021.
Protection against breaches and recovery
Cyber security is all about finding solutions that provide businesses and individuals with robust digital protection. One such measure is security tools, which reduce threat risk and help mitigate the impact of attacks. Even in the worst-case scenario, companies with adequate controls are better placed to recover critical applications, data, and devices.
Compliance and Public Sector Tenders
Since October 2014, businesses dealing with public sector contracts have been required to show proof of Cyber Essentials accreditation. Therefore, companies that don’t have basic cyber security measures are more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and lose out on commercial opportunities.
Cyber security compliance ensures businesses meet regulations and don’t incur costly fines and penalties, such as those surrounding GDPR. It also builds customer trust and brand reputation, while improving access control and accountability.
You may think a security-first approach means leaving cyber security practices to your IT department. However, cyber security awareness should create a security culture within your organisation.
Cyber security is everyone’s responsibility. For instance, employees should be accountable for securing their devices and understanding techniques. Therefore, it’s down to you to keep them informed and explain what necessary actions they should take in specific scenarios.
Cyber-attacks don’t just have financial implications; they also typically damage a business’ reputation and customer loyalty.
For instance, UK broadband company TalkTalk suffered a devastating data breach in 2019, and, as a result, lost more than 100,000 customers. It also damaged their share price, which dropped by a third in value.
As more businesses use computing outside of their organisation, it is harder for security experts to identify who they should trust and what access users should receive.
The Cyber Security Zero Trust model is a strategic approach requiring all users (inside or outside the business’ network) to be authenticated, authorised, and validated for security configuration before receiving access to data and business-critical applications. Cyber Security Zero Trust applies to users, applications, and business infrastructure. It thereby removes implicit trust, an outdated strategy, from a business’ wider cyber security strategy.
In short, Zero Trust means employing a cyber security model that trusts no one.
Zero Trust is a comprehensive and robust cyber security model, enabling businesses to restrict access to networks, applications, and IT environments without sacrificing performance and user experience.
It’s not to be confused with Cyber Security ‘Zero Day’, a broad term that describes recently discovered security vulnerabilities that hackers target. It’s called ‘Zero Day’ since the victims of these attacks have “zero days” to fix the breach, as the criminal target a vulnerability before the developer has a chance to fix it.
Phishing attacks involve cybercriminals deceiving their victims by sending scam emails, which, if opened, enable the hacker to gain access to sensitive information or cause the user to install malware.
Phishing remains the most common type of cyber-attack. In 2021, 83 percent of UK businesses experienced email phishing attacks, according to the government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey (2021).
Think “Malicious Software”.
Malware is an umbrella term for all kinds of malicious software, designed to infiltrate devices and steal data or damage systems.
A common misconception is that malware is a computer virus, but all viruses are malware. Examples of common malware include Viruses, Worms, Trojan Horses, Spyware, Ransomware, and Adware.
Ransomware encrypts a victim’s critical data so they can’t access files, databases, or applications. Like a physical ransom, the idea is to make the victim pay money for their assets.
The two most common forms of ransomware are ‘locker’ and ‘crypto’.
Locker ransomware locks you out of basic computer functions, forcing you to repay a ransom in return for regained control. In contrast, crypto-ransomware encrypts sensitive data, i.e., business-critical files, without interfering with basic computer functions.
If you want to minimise the risk of ransomware damaging your systems, ensure data is adequately backed up, and update anti-ransomware across your software.
A DDoS attack is a malicious attempt to disrupt the regular traffic of a targeted server, service, or network by overwhelming the target or its surrounding infrastructure. Typically, hackers achieve this by sending a flood of bot directed internet traffic. DDoS attacks are highly effective since they use multiple compromised computer systems—and since each bot is a legitimate internet device, deciphering the attack from regular traffic is often difficult.
Cybercriminals carry our DDoS attacks with networks of internet-connected machines. They consist of computers and other devices infected with malware, commonly referred to as bots (or “botnets”).
Once a botnet is established, the criminal can direct an attack by sending remote instructions to each bot. The botnet then sends multiple requests to the server, intending to overwhelm it.
ATPs use continuous, sophisticated hacking techniques to gain access to a system. They then remain inside for a prolonged period with potentially highly destructive consequences. ATPs are notoriously complicated to implement, so they tend to be targeted at nation-states and large corporations.
APTs can also target smaller companies affiliated with larger businesses, often via the supply chain. They essentially use the smaller business’ weaker cyber security as a steppingstone to the larger corporation.
The main goal of APTs is to steal information over extended periods rather than ‘dipping in’ and leaving quickly.
A MITM attack is a sophisticated form of phishing. In these cases, the attacker intercepts email communication between two people, and sends either one or both emails appearing to originate from the other person.
The main goal of MITM attacks is to steal data. For example, an attacker could intercept data passed from an individual’s device or network on an unsecured Wi-Fi network.