Understanding the types of threats your business faces is the first step in creating effective cyber security measures. You must also acknowledge that your biggest threat could be internal and so protection involves education as well as putting in place defences. To protect your business, you must deploy a multi-layer approach to security.
Ransomware is a form of malware (malicious software) that attempts to encrypt (scramble) your
data and then will demand a ransom to release an unlock code. Most ransomware is delivered via
Follow these key steps to protect your company:
1. Staff should be wary of unsolicited emails, particularly those that ask for a prompt response.
2. Install and maintain good anti-virus and malware protection software.
3. Keep your applications up to date.
4. Protect your data by backing it up. A series of well-managed data backups will allow you to
recover from an unencrypted version of a file. These backups need to be regularly tested.
Phishing is an attempt to gain sensitive information by posing as a trustworthy contact, for example
a bank or online service.
Spear phishing is a highly targeted attempt to gain information from an individual. Phishing emails
may look completely convincing and often have faultless wording and genuine logos.
One form of spear phishing is known as Whaling. This sees a fake email sent seemingly from a CEO
applying pressure on a CFO into making an urgent payment. To counter this specific form of attack, it
is worth considering safeguards to protect the identity of CEOs and CFOs to prevent impersonation.
Here are a few steps you can use to protect yourself:
• Keep in mind that companies do not ask for sensitive information.
• Be suspicious of unexpected emails.
• Make use of anti-malware software.
• Make sure you have your spam filters turned on.
• Check these filters regularly in case they have accidentally trapped an innocent email.
Cyber security in the office may seem challenging, but it is essential to understand that security
extends well beyond the traditional place of work these days.
The use of smart phones and tablets has become widespread, while the ubiquitous and cheap
nature of portable storage devices makes them a useful tool for the backup and transportation of
data. However, all of these devices are targets for data thieves.
These pointers provide some useful first steps to prevent data leaking from your organisation:
• Ensure mobile devices have passcode locks.
• Turn on the tracking by GPS and the option to remotely wipe the device if it is lost.
• The use of encryption software is highly recommended when using portable storage
• Keep an eye on your mobile devices and paperwork at all times. A large proportion of
crime is opportunistic. Taking your eye off your briefcase or smart device, even for a
moment, could result in a serious loss of data.
Gaining access to IT systems from outside an organisation still offers a large threat to the cyber security of your business.
Traditionally, they have attempted to gain access to bank account information or credit card
databases. However, intellectual property is another source of value. By tricking staff into revealing
user names and passwords, they can get access. The primary methods to protect yourself from
hacking are network firewalls; data access security; procedures for providing and removing access,
and user awareness and training.
If your organisation employs staff (full time or as contractors), there is a possibility they could leak
data by mistake or maliciously. The potential damage from a leak of documents cannot be
Use these tips to mitigate the size of any data leak:
• Educate your team to be alert to issues and minimise careless mistakes.
• Limit how much data staff have access to. The principle of “least privilege access”
should apply to all IT systems as this means staff have the minimum access they need to
do their roles.
• Control the use of portable storage devices, such as USB memory keys, portable hard
drives and media players.
• Consider using applications in certain situations to monitor staff behaviour for example
to determine who copies what. In all these areas, it is key to remember that alongside
technology, well-developed processes, procedures and staff training go a long way to
protecting your valuable data. For example, if someone leaves your employment, make
sure you remove their access. The reality today is that you should protect your digital
assets with the same vigilance as you do when locking your office door at the end of the
WHAT TO DO IF YOU’VE BEEN BREACHED
If the worst happens and you discover you have been breached, the following incident responses will
help to contain the situation:
• Change your passwords, ensuring they are strong
• Call your bank and credit card companies
• Consider shutting your systems down
• Report the incident to ActionFraud
• Communicate to all involved, both external and internal. It is important all stakeholders,
including customers and clients, understand what has happened.
• If appropriate, engage a third party expert to assess the extent of the breach and advise
on corrective action.
• Document everything you do.
Useful sources of information
• 10 Steps to Cyber Security for Smaller Firms: icaew.com/10steps
• Information Commissioners Office: http://www.ico.org.uk
• Get Safe Online: Getsafeonline.org/businesses
• ActionFraud: actionfraud.police.uk
Consider creating an Incident Response Plan, outlining what you will do in the case of a breach –
and ideally before you are compromised.