Cyber crime is a phenomenon which has been rapidly growing in recent years, with numerous cases of serious security breaches having occurred relatively frequently. Cyber crime for UK businesses is now taken very seriously, and most put stringent measures in place to try and minimise the risks it presents.
That being said, cyber attacks are becoming more complex and developed in nature, and ever more difficult to defend against. This is why cyber security is now a major industry, with experts constantly developing new software to counter emerging threats. Here are some of the main ways cyber crime can affect SMEs, and what they can do about it.
How Significant a Threat is Cyber Crime?
In 2016, cyber crime cost UK businesses a total of £29 billion, and affected 2.9 million British companies. So, the financial impact of cyber crime can be significant, and cyber crime itself may even pose an existential threat to SMEs. The level of risk a cyber attack poses depends on its purpose and how complex it is.
Some of the most common cyber threats include:
- Phishing emails
- Data theft
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks
Although they vary in severity and ability to cause damage, all these cyber attacks can cause significant difficulties for businesses, and disrupt their operations. Some of the highest level cyber crime has involved the theft of millions of people’s private data and given the hackers behind it significant leverage over the targeted companies.
For SMEs, which cannot afford substantial financial and operational setbacks, cyber crime is one of the most significant threats of modern times.
The new General Data Protection Regulation, due to come into force in May 2018, will hold to account those companies which do not put in place sufficient measures to protect the data of their customers. It will allow for much heftier fines to be placed on companies which lose their customers’ data to cyber attacks as a result of failing to adequately protect it from security breaches.
GDPR will essentially force companies to adopt the necessary measures to counter the threat of cyber crime against them. This may mean they have to up the amount of money they spend on security measures.
Cyber Crime Prevention Tips
There now exist numerous methods which SMEs can employ in order to counter the threats posed by cyber crime. After all, effective cyber crime prevention can end up saving a lot of time and money, so the more robust a cyber security system, the better. Some of the most effective measures include:
- Getting the basics right: Investing in a comprehensive antivirus system and using basic security measures (such as strong passwords) can be effective against some of the most common threats. It may, however, not be enough to combat higher level threats like hacking.
- Security experts: Some companies could decide to employ a cyber security expert (or team of experts) if they have the money, who can use cyber crime investigation techniques to assess cyber security systems and make any necessary improvements.
- Looking for emerging threats: Being vigilant is important, so it is also a good idea to monitor the news, which will often cover large scale cyber attacks as and when they occur. It is also important for staff to be vigilant against threats, so that they can avoid falling prey to them.
- Ethical hackers: One of the more controversial methods which some companies have been exploring is ethical hacking. This involves hiring an ‘ethical hacker’ to deliberately breach their systems and find any security flaws which a criminal hacker may be able to exploit. They can then suggest security improvements to make the systems more robust.
- Adaptability: Since cyber crime is constantly evolving, it is important that companies remain adaptable, and constantly review the measures they have in place against cyber crime. This will help them to be resilient in the face of new, developed threats, and enable them to continue operations as normal.
National cyber crime units exist across the UK to try and prevent cyber crime from having a significant impact on individuals, businesses, and the economy. However, looking into how companies can prevent cyber crime in the first place can go a long way in helping them to avoid the major dangers associated with being a target.
There is no doubting that cyber crime will continue to pose a threat to businesses of all types for the foreseeable future, but with the latest preventative cyber security measures and tools, every business can do their utmost to stay safe.
Whilst care has been taken in the production of this article and the information contained within it has been obtained from sources that Aon UK Limited believes to be reliable, Aon UK Limited does not warrant, represent or guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or fitness for any purpose of the article or any part of it and can accept no liability for any loss incurred in any way whatsoever by any person who may rely on it. In any case any recipient shall be entirely responsible for the use to which it puts this article.
This article has been compiled using information available to us up to 30/12/17.