Cyber security breaches are an ever-present, and growing, problem for businesses in the UK. According to the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), there were 1,462 data breaches reported in the UK in 2021, up from 1,369 in 2020 – which has increased by 10% in the past year, with the number of unreported data breaches significantly higher.
Last year, the average cost of a data breach in the UK stood at £3.2 million, which is a pretty scary number for most SME businesses. When most think of a cyber security breach and the cost, they think of direct costs related to it. Direct costs can include the cost of investigating the breach, repairing the breach, notifying affected customers and any legal fees if they’re required.
In the race to resolve the breach quickly and safely, many forget about the indirect costs to their business. The loss of customer confidence, the loss of productivity, the cost of reputational damage, and in some scenarios, the loss of business, with a study by the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport finding that the average cost of lost business due to a data breach in the UK is £2.2 million.
Typically, businesses will have some sort of firewall or anti-virus in place, but without adequate support, it’s not always easy to ensure they’re constantly updated and monitored, or that they’re even configured correctly in the first place. Similarly, for many businesses it can be difficult to maintain their network and systems, ensuring they’re properly updated and patched as soon as they need to be, and that updates happen for each of their users, on all of their differing software apps. But, undoubtedly, the biggest risk factor for most businesses, is their staff – no doubt the reason behind why phishing attacks are so prevalent in the UK. Why? Because you’re at the behest of your staff when it comes to maintaining strong passwords, and ensuring they utilise what they’ve learnt from any cyber security training they’ve received and are conscious about what they click on; if they’ve had any training, at all!
But it’s not all doom and gloom, as there are a number of practical steps that business can take to mitigate these risks. By considering both the direct and indirect costs of a cyber security breach, businesses can take steps to reduce the risk of a breach and the financial impact of a breach if it does occur.
5 practical steps to prevent cyber security breaches
Taking a layered approach to cyber security.
A layered approach involves implementing multiple layers of security measures to protect your organisation’s digital assets from various types of cyber threats. Each layer of security is designed to provide a different level of protection against cyber-attacks and the different layers work together to create a robust and effective cybersecurity system.
Consider your first layer as your PCs. This would be the likes of anti-malware and anti-spam. Your next layer is the protection of your gateways, with the help of firewalls which should be configured by an expert to ensure their effectiveness. Then your final layer, your staff. This is where you’ll introduce multi-factor authentication and threat simulations.
This approach provides multiple levels of defence against cyber threats, making it much harder for attackers to breach your systems. A layered approach helps to reduce the risk of a single point of failure in your cybersecurity system, as even if one layer is compromised, there are still other layers in place to protect against attacks.
Educate and train your internal teams.
With the best will in the world, sometimes people get it wrong; your staff are no different. According to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), phishing attacks accounted for 45% of all cyber attacks in the UK in 2021. They’re a type of social engineering attack where attackers send emails or text messages that appear to be from a legitimate source, usually containing a link that, that when clicked, will take the victim to a fake website which looks real. Once the victim enters their personal or financial information on the fake website, the attacker can steal it.
Phishing attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated and increasingly difficult to spot. That’s why education and continuous training is paramount, helping your teams to spot the signs of malicious emails. Systems like Microsoft Defender have lots of clever features when it comes to advanced protection against malicious emails, phishing scams, spam and other email-based threats. But what’s really helpful, when it comes to end-users and training, is its threat simulation, which simulates realistic attack scenarios to test and improve your security defences. Helping you gain insights into how well your organisation’s security tools and processes can detect, prevent and respond to cyber-attacks.
Be regular with updates, applying patches and monitoring your network.
Keeping software up to date is so important when it comes to preventing a cyber security breach, because software updates often include security patches that help to protect against known vulnerabilities. If you fall behind on updates, so do your defences.
This is where the knowledge of guidance of an experience managed servicer provider, like The HBP Group, is invaluable. By partnering with an expert who has the knowledge and resource to not only monitor your network for signs of compromise, but we can ensure that everything is up-to-date and patched on your network, to prevent anything happening in the first place.
Have a robust cyber security strategy and response plan.
The average time it takes a business to identify a data breach in the UK is 207 days, with the average time it takes a business to contain a data breach is 73 days. Knowing that your business has been hacked may be very obvious but there are a number of things to look out for that could suggest you have been hacked, or are in the process of being hacked. Some activity is only ever likely to be spotted by specialised software or IT experts who understand what they are looking for, and the best way to identify one early (or usually prevent it entirely!), is with a strong cyber security strategy.
Your strategy should cover things like where you require most protection, when and how to test, where your biggest vulnerabilities lie, like with your staff, and what systems you need in place. Head here to find out more about creating a cyber security strategy for your business. In the event you are hacked, a well-considered and thought out response plan is vital.
With cyber-crime on the rise in the UK year-on-year you may need to start thinking of what you’ll do ‘when’ your business is hacked, not ‘if’ it is. Your plan should include steps to contain the breach, notify affected parties, and investigate the incident. Head here to find out more about what to do if your business is hacked.
Build confidence with your customers that your cyber security strategy is strong, and you can be trusted to manage their data.
It’s no surprise that these days many businesses seek out partnerships where they can be certain their data and information is kept safe. As a result, certifications like Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus are becoming increasingly popular with UK businesses – even a requirement. The certification is a valuable way for businesses to demonstrate their commitment to cyber security and to protect themselves from the increasing threat of cyber-attacks.
In conclusion, cyber security breaches are a serious threat to businesses of all sizes. The cost of a data breach can be significant, both in terms of direct costs and indirect costs such as lost business and reputational damage. With careful consideration and the support of an experienced and knowledgeable support provider, you can help to reduce the risk of a cyber-attack and protect your business from financial loss.