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Last updated: 09.02.18

Cyber attacks: an increasingly global problem

Cyber attacks are becoming an increasingly prominent problem for businesses all over the world - making it vital that your organisation takes steps to protect itself.

The rise of digital networks and services has played an essential role in helping the business world to grow and expand across borders in recent decades, to the extent that many of today's business models simply could not have existed in a pre-internet era.

Company owners owe much to modern technology for giving them a truly global reach, helping them revolutionise their business practices and find opportunities in previously untapped markets - but at the same time, it has also exposed these same organisations to the risk of serious cyber attacks with devastating consequences.

As such, it's never been more important for businesses to make sure they have strong data protection and security policies in place to protect them from cyber criminals, who could be targeting them from any location in the world. Only by doing so can they take full advantage of all the benefits of this digital era, while minimising the risk of suffering the financial and reputational damage a cyber attack can cause.

How the threat of cyber attacks is growing

The recent proliferation of cyber crime is perhaps the best evidence that the near-universal connectivity that has been made possible in recent years has been a double-edged sword. Businesses that have taken advantage of the benefits of this connectivity have suddenly found themselves targeted for attack by criminals all over the world - and it has meant that the impact of the biggest incidents can now be felt on a global scale.

There are few better illustrations of the scope of this problem than the recent WannaCry ransomware attacks, which infamously crippled the NHS for several days in late 2017 after infecting hundreds of computers, preventing users from accessing the devices without paying a ransom.

The damage to the British health service captured headlines in the UK, but the reach of WannaCry was in fact much larger than this - indeed, cyber security firm Kaspersky estimated that more than 45,000 WannaCry attacks were recorded across 74 countries, affecting more than 57,000 people. Given that the majority of these users were caught out simply by accessing a malicious email link, it indicates how fast and how easily malware can spread in the modern era.

What can your business do to protect itself?

The transition to digital-focused operating models represents a paradigm shift that businesses cannot - and, largely, wouldn't want to - reverse, so it's vital that all organisations that wish to protect themselves against the risks that are out there take the issue seriously.

After all, as with most aspects of business, a company's cyber security proficiency often correlates directly to how much they are willing to invest in getting it right. Sometimes, that can relate to material investments, such as spending money on high-quality antivirus software, or appointing a dedicated data protection officer to oversee and take responsibility for all of of your organisation's security protocols.

However, in many other cases, it's less about spending money and more about spending time to make sure that your company culture and operating practices are set up in a way that minimises risk and takes data stewardship seriously. This means backing up data, securing all devices that connect to your network, using strong passwords and briefing all members of staff - from frontline workers to upper management - on the steps they need to take to stay safe online.

It's likely that this process will take time to bed in, with ongoing training and development programmes needed to keep your workforce's cyber security competence up to date. There's no doubt, though, that it'll be time and money well-spent - particularly as cyber crime grows ever more devious and widespread, and regulators step up their focus on making sure businesses are doing their part to prevent it.

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