Half of UK SMEs spend less than £1,000 on cyber security

Almost 50% of UK small to medium enterprises plan to spend £1,000 or less on cyber security in the next year and 22% do not know how much they will spend, insurance firm Zurich has found.

Almost 50% of UK small to medium enterprises plan to spend £1,000 or less on cyber security in the next yearAs many as 875,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK – 16% of the total – have been hit by a cyber attack in the past 12 months, according to the latest Zurich SME Risk Index.

Businesses in London are the worst affected, with almost a quarter (23%) reporting suffering a breach within this period.

Of businesses that were affected, more than one fifth (21%) said it cost them more than £10,000 and one in 10 (11%) said it cost more than £50,000.

Yet despite the volume of attacks and potential losses, the survey of more than 1,000 UK SMEs showed that business leaders are not committing to investing significantly in cyber security in the year ahead.

The survey, by YouGov on behalf of Zurich, found that 49% of SMEs admitted they plan to spend £1,000 or less on their cyber defences in the next 12 months, and almost a quarter (22%) do not know how much they will spend.

The lack of planned investment in cyber defences is also surprising in the light of the fact that business leaders report that strong cyber security is giving them an opportunity to stand out from competitors, with as many as one in 20 claiming to have gained an advantage over a competitor because of stronger cyber security credentials.

This trend is confirmed by a separate survey of SMEs by security e-learning firm CybSafe, which showed that half of SMEs polled have had cyber security conditions included in contracts with enterprise customers in the past five years, and one-third of respondents said they have had their cyber security measures questioned as part of winning contracts in the past year.

Also, 44% said they have been required to hold a recognised cyber security standard, such as ISO 27001, by their enterprise customers in the past five years and 28% in the past year alone, demonstrating a clear trend in enterprise approach to supplier information security.

“While recent cyber attacks have highlighted the importance of cyber security for some of the world’s biggest companies, it is important to remember that small and medium-sized businesses need to protect themselves too,” said Paul Tombs, head of SME proposition at Zurich.

“The survey results suggest that SMEs are not yet heeding the warnings provided by large attacks on global businesses.”

However, Tombs said that although the rate of attacks on SMEs is troubling, it also shows there is an opportunity for businesses with the correct safeguards and procedures in place to use this as a strength and gain an advantage.

In September 2016, a report by Juniper Research revealed that 74% of UK SMEs believed they were safe from cyber attack, despite half of them admitting having suffered a data breach.

The report showed that 86% of the SMEs surveyed thought they were doing enough to counter the effects of cyber attacks, and 27% believed they were safe from attack because they were small and of no interest to cyber criminals.

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Defence minister opens £3m cyber security centre in

UK minister for defence procurement has opened a new cyber security centre aimed at boosting UK cyber defence capability and skills.

UK minister for defence procurement has opened a new cyber security centre aimed at boosting UK cyber defence capability and skills.

The Cyber Works centre, which employs 90 people, will enable Lockheed Martin to work more closely with UK partners to share knowledge and best practice, undertake research and develop new cyber defence capabilities.

In February 2017, Lockheed Martin announced that it would support the UK government’s CyberFirst scheme to inspire and support young people considering roles in cyber security.

The Cyber Works centre is designed to deliver cyber capabilities to UK government as well as support the development of skills and careers in cyber security and intelligence.

Harriett Baldwin, UK minister for defence procurement, said that with its £1.9 billion National Cyber Security Strategy, the country is a world leader in the field.

“The opening of today’s cutting-edge centre is a great example of how partnerships with industry are at the heart of that strategy,” she said. “Together, we are developing solutions to national security risks.”

A key part of the Cyber Security Strategy is partnerships with industry, with £10 million being invested in a new Cyber Innovation Fund to give startups the boost and partners they need

Baldwin said the UK is already leading Nato in its support for offensive and defensive operations in the fight against Islamic State (IS) and complex cyber threats. “This centre will further boost the UK’s cyber capabilities,” she said.

Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest aerospace and defence company and a longstanding leader in the fields of cyber security and intelligence.

The company pioneered the development of the cyber kill chain, an analysis method for cyber network defence that has been broadly adopted across industries and sectors.

Lockheed Martin is also a top provider of capabilities to defence and intelligence communities around the world and operates facilities to defend its own networks across 70 countries.

As well as investing in the new facility, Lockheed Martin plans to take part in the National Cyber Security Centre’s £6.5 million CyberInvest scheme to support cutting-edge cyber security research in the UK.

With National Offensive Cyber Planning allowing the UK to integrate cyber into all of its military operations, defence plays a key role in the country’s cyber security strategy, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Offensive cyber is being routinely used in the war against IS, not only in Iraq but also in the campaign to liberate Raqqa and other towns on the Euphrates, the MoD said.

In defence, the MoD said the £800m Innovation Initiative has already boosted investment in UK research and business, with multimillion-pound competitions to develop artificial intelligence and automated systems.

In January next year, the ministry will open a dedicated state-of-the-art Defence Cyber School at Shrivenham, bringing together all military joint cyber training into one place.

The MoD also has a key role to play in contributing to a culture of resilience, which is why the Defence Cyber Partnership Programme was set up to ensure its industrial partners protect themselves and meet robust cyber security standards, the ministry said.

 

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UK firms still relying on perimeter defences for cyber security

Despite the increasing number of data breaches, many companies are still relying on perimeter defences and are underinvesting in technologies to keep data safe.

Despite the increasing number of data breaches, many companies are still relying on perimeter defences and are underinvesting in technologies to keep data safe.

Some 96% of UK businesses feel as though their network perimeter security is effective at keeping unauthorised users out of their network, according to the fourth-annual Gemalto Data Security Confidence Index.

The global ransomware attack in May 2017 affected more than 200,000 computers in over 150 countries, including in the UK where the NHS was forced to restrict operations and turn away patients.

Across the 10 global regions surveyed, 94% of the more than 1,000 IT professionals said perimeter security is effective, but only 35% said they were extremely confident their data would be secure if perimeter defences were breached.

However, the survey also revealed that 46% of UK businesses are only protecting their customers’ data with passwords, and when considering their latest data breaches, 75% of the data stolen from businesses on average was not encrypted, with 11% of businesses not encrypting any of their data.

“As a security professional, it feels like I’ve been saying forever that basic perimeter security measures are no longer enough,” said Joe Pindar, director of data protection product strategy at Gemalto.

“So it’s worrying to see the UK is continuing to place ultimate faith in these systems, without thinking about what attackers actually want – their data,” he said.

Without a switch in mentality, and starting to protect the data at its source with robust encryption and two-factor authentication, the UK is like one of the three little pigs.

“Unfortunately, the one sitting in the straw house – not realising that when the time comes, passwords and perimeter security alone will not stand up to attackers,” he said.

The Gemalto report notes that many businesses are continuing to prioritise perimeter security without realising it is largely ineffective against sophisticated cyber attacks.

According to the research findings, 76% of global respondents said their organisation had increased investment in perimeter security technologies such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention, antivirus, content filtering, and anomaly detection to protect against external attackers.

Despite this investment, 68% believe unauthorised users could access their network, rendering their perimeter security ineffective.

These findings suggest a lack of confidence in the solutions used, especially when over a quarter (28%) of organisations polled have suffered perimeter security breaches in the past 12 months. The reality of the situation worsens when considering that, on average, only 8% of data breached was encrypted.

Businesses’ confidence is further undermined by over half of respondents (55%) not knowing where their sensitive data is stored. In addition, over a third of businesses do not encrypt valuable information such as payment (32%) or customer (35%) data.

According to the Gemalto report, this means that, should the data be stolen, a hacker would have full access to this information, and could use it for crimes including identify theft, financial fraud or ransomware.

“It is clear there is a divide between organisations’ perceptions of the effectiveness of perimeter security and the reality,” said Jason Hart, vice-president and chief technology officer for data protection at Gemalto.

“By believing that their data is already secure, businesses are failing to prioritise the measures necessary to protect their data, which is a company’s most valuable asset,” he said, adding that it is important to focus on protecting this resource. “Otherwise, reality will inevitably bite those that fail to do so.”

 

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Major cyber incidents accelerating, says NCSC

The UK is seeing an acceleration in major cyber security incidents, according to the country’s cyber security protection agency.

The UK is seeing an acceleration in major cyber security incidents, according to the country’s cyber security protection agency

In the eight months since inception, the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has recorded 480 major cyber incidents requiring its attention.

However, there has been big rise in these types of incidents in the past few months, in part due to an improved ability to spot them and a greater willingness to report them, according to John Noble, director of incident management at the NCSC.

“This increase in major attacks is mainly being driven by the fact that cyber attack tools are becoming more readily available, in combination with a growing willingness to use them,” he told The Cyber Security Summit in London.

Although the WannaCry ransomware attacks in May 2017 came very close, Noble said there had been no C1-level national cyber security incidents to date.

The majority of the major incidents the NCSC has dealt with were C3-level attacks, typically confined to single organisations. These account for 451 incidents to date.

The remaining 29 major incidents were C2-level attacks, significant attacks that typically require a cross-government response.

Across these nearly 500 incidents, Noble said there were five common themes or lessons to be learned.

1. There is still a need for organisations to get the basics right

“We are still seeing organisations that are not getting the basics right, like software security patching, antivirus updating and putting in basic protections and controls for system administrators, who are typically big targets for attackers to steal their credentials,” said Noble.

2. Failure to get the balance right between usability and security

“In the vast majority of incidents we see, victim organisations have got this balance wrong, leaning too far in the direction of convenience and usability leading to things like logging being turned off to optimise performance,” said Noble.

“The decision-making around where to strike that balance is typically confused because of the complexity of the enterprises being defended, and because of a lack of understanding about what they are trying to prevent and which data really matters,” he said.

3. Legacy systems and equipment

The existence of legacy systems and equipment in the enterprise presents opportunities to attackers, said Noble. “Often, when we investigate incidents, we find it is in the legacy systems that the compromise has begun,” he said.

4. Outsourcing

“In early 2017, we reported on a major compromise of managed service providers, which provide a tremendous opportunity for bad actors,” said Noble, alluding to Operation Cloud Hopper that was uncovered in April.

“MSPs enable attackers to obtain security credentials in one country, traverse across their network, and then compromise a company or series of companies in another country, and exfiltrate the data through a third country,” he said.

In response, Noble said the NCSC had published a list of questions organisations should ask their MSPs in terms of security.

“Similarly, organisations need to understand the security implications of their supply chains, who they are connecting up to, and what risks are involved,” he said.

5. Mergers and acquisitions

In mergers and acquisition, cyber security is often overlooked in the due diligence process, said Noble. “As a result, the cyber risk is not understood and not addressed effectively,” he said.

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