UK small business cyber security spend low despite breaches

The UK is the most breached country in Europe, but business’ IT cyber security spend remains low compared with other countries in the region, a report reveals

UK small business cyber security spend low despite breaches

More than a third of UK businesses reported cyber security attacks in the past year, which was higher than any other country in Europe, according to the European edition of the 2018 Thales data threat report.

However, despite a 24% increase in the number of attacks compared with the previous year, UK firms claimed to feel less vulnerable to data threats, compared with those across Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, and consequently invested less in cyber security.

While more organisations across Sweden (78%) and the Netherlands (74%) admitted to being breached in the past, compared with just 67% of organisations in the UK, the report said it was a different story in the past 12 months.

Thales data shows that while 37% of businesses across the UK were breached, the figures were lower for Germany (33%), Sweden (30%) and the Netherlands (27%).

Despite the rise in attacks, just 31% of UK organisations said they feel “very” or “extremely” vulnerable to data threats, leaving the majority (69%) feeling “somewhat” or “not at all” vulnerable. Businesses across Sweden claimed to feel the most vulnerable (49%), followed by the Netherlands (47%) and Germany (36%).

Although 69% of UK organisations reported an overall increase in their IT security spending, with 15% saying it was much higher’ than the previous year, the report said the increase is still less than spend in Sweden, where 75% of businesses have upped their budgets to offset threats, and Germany where 76% have increased their IT security budgets.

While 72% of organisations polled have dedicated more money to IT security, UK businesses appeared to still fall short compared with their European counterparts, with 39% of Swedish respondents saying their budget was “much higher” than the previous year and an additional 36% claiming it was ‘somewhat higher’, and spending said to be “a lot more” by 29% of firms in the Netherlands and 24% in France.

The report also reveals that despite the two year bedding in period allowed for compliance with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), 49% of companies in Sweden failed data security audits in the past year, followed by the Netherlands (38%), Germany (33%) and the UK (19%).

Aside from the UK, all other European countries showed decline in their efforts to meet compliance, which the report said was “worrying” in the light of the fact that there are so many changes to standards and regulations. Despite this drop, respondents across the board all cited compliance as being effective when it comes to preventing data breaches.

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Digital identity needs to be cyber security priority in 2018

Protecting digital identities and protecting employees are key cyber security challenges for 2018.

Protecting digital identities and protecting employees are key cyber security challenges for 2018

The issues of protecting digital identity, gaining data visibility and protecting employees are key cyber security challenges for 2018 according to the cyber security 2018 predictions report by security firm FireEye.

“The idea that you can get someone’s date of birth, and their Social Security number and steal their identity and do fraudulent tax refunds, or try to get a loan or credit card – that has to change,” FireEye said.

“This has to happen. Otherwise, every five months, we’re going to have another huge data breach,” they warned.

In addition to the imperative of finding a better way to manage identity, RedEye said it was also important to find a way of dealing with international privacy.

On the topic of nation state actors in the cyber realm, RedEye considers Iran the most interesting country to watch, rather than Russia, China or North Korea.

RedEye said while Iran started “acting at scale” in 2017, the extent of that activity was not really known. “We don’t know if we are seeing 5% of Iran’s activities, or 90% – although I’m guessing it’s closer to 5% – but they’re operating at a scale where, for the first time in my career, It feels to me that the majority of the actors we’re responding to right now are hosted in Iran, and they are state sponsored,” they said.

On the topic of cloud security, RedEye claimed better visibility was of paramount importance. I know that a lot of people are depending on the cloud, and we need visibility.

“Many of these cloud providers are providing it, but we don’t always have security operations that can take advantage of that visibility and see what’s happening,” he said.

An area many companies are still overlooking, RedEye said, is protecting employees from cyber attack.

He said companies needed to consider whether hackers could access corporate accounts through hacking employees’ private accounts, or if they could make it appear as though they have hacked the enterprise.

“There are hackers out there who will hack an employee at a company, and they will post any document they can get, and they will say they hacked the company even if they haven’t. It’s a reputational thing – while it’s hard to gauge the public response to these types of incidents, right now many companies are being deemed irresponsible or negligent or compromised when they are none of those things,” he said.

RedEye said all security professionals should be thinking about what employees are doing when they go home, how they can be secured, how they can be helped, what policies are needed and how those policies could be enforced.

They advised that all organisations moving into the cloud should know everything that is going on.

While there are bound to be new, interesting attacks in 2018, organisations should be preparing for modified versions of current attacks

“For instance, do you have places where documents are getting uploaded and then going into your back office? That’s a good place to ensure there is some high-grade detection, beyond an antivirus scanner. Because you essentially have unauthenticated input going directly into the key parts of your organisation.”

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Ransomware up nearly 2,000% in two years as cyber mafia hit business

Cyber attacks on businesses in 2017 grew in frequency, sophistication and malice – a report on the new age of organised cyber crime finds.

Cyber attacks on businesses in 2017 grew in frequency, sophistication and malice - a report on the new age of organised cyber crime finds.

The new generation of cyber criminals increasingly resembles traditional mafia organisations, requiring a new approach to dealing with it, according to a report by security firm Malwarebytes.

Cyber criminals have the same professional organisation as mafia gangs of the 1930s, but they also share a willingness to intimidate and paralyse victims, the report shows.

Malwarebytes’ analysis also shows that, in spite of acknowledging the severe reputational and financial risks of cyber crime, many business leaders greatly underestimate their vulnerability to such attacks.

The report calls for businesses and consumers to fight back by acting as “vigilantes” through greater collective awareness, knowledge sharing and proactive defenses. This includes a shift from shaming businesses that have been hacked to engaging with them and working together to fix the problem.

Businesses must also heighten their awareness of cyber crime, and take a realistic view towards the likelihood of attack.

The vast impacts of these attacks, the report said, mean that cyber crime must be elevated from a tech issue to a business-critical consideration.

Malwarebytes’ data demonstrates the urgent need for such a shift in approach by highlighting the capacity of these fast-maturing gangs to inflict greater damage on businesses.

The new cyber mafia, the report said, is accelerating the volume of attacks, with the average monthly volume of attacks in 2017, up 23% compared with 2016. In the UK, the report said 28% of businesses had experienced a “serious” cyber attack in the past 12 months.

Ransomware attacks detected by Malwarebytes show that the number of attacks in 2017 from January to October was 62% greater than the total for 2016.

In addition, detections are up 1,989% since 2015, reaching hundreds of thousands of detections in September 2017, compared with fewer than 16,000 in September 2015. In 2017, ransomware detections rose from 90,351 in January to 333,871 in October.

“The new mafia, identified by our report, is characterised by the emergence of four distinct groups of cyber criminals: traditional gangs, state-sponsored attackers, ideological hackers and hackers-for-hire,” said Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of Malwarebytes.

Malwarebytes argues that the growth of cyber crime and a lack of clarity over how best to police it is damaging victim confidence, with those affected by cyber crime often too embarrassed to speak out.

This is true for consumers and businesses alike, the report said, and can have dangerous ramifications as firms bury their heads in the sand instead of working to reduce future incidents.

The report suggests that the answer lies in engaging and educating the C-suite so that CEOs are as likely as IT departments to recognise the signs of an attack and be able to respond appropriately.

“CEOs will soon have little choice but to elevate cyber crime from a technology issue to a business-critical consideration,” he said.

“Rather than sit back and minimise the blow from cyber crime, individuals and businesses must take the same actions that previous generations of vigilantes once did against the fearsome syndicates of their day: fight back,” the report said.

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Small businesses cyber success is balance of user experience, privacy and security

Small businesses need to balance user experience, privacy and security to achieve overall cyber success.

Small businesses need to balance user experience, privacy and security to achieve overall cyber success.

A change in approach will help businesses achieve the right balance between user experience, privacy and security more easily, says Martin Kuppinger, principal analyst at KuppingerCole.

“Most businesses are making the fundamental mistake of thinking inside-out, but by thinking outside-in, they will automatically put the consumer first,” he told Consumer Identity World Europe 2017 in Paris.

This means instead of thinking about what suits the business, the business looks at what will best suit its customers, what works best for customers and taking customer preferences into account.

“Most businesses need to switch from the approach where they are telling consumers what they want them to do, to making it clear they are willing to do things the way the consumer wants,” said Kuppinger.

“We do what you want, needs to be the message, because this is the best way to ensure that consumers will want to do the most with them,” he said.

In the light of the European Union’s (EU’s) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Kuppinger said it is now even more important to get the balance right.

From a consumer perspective, this means ensuring that services and interactions with suppliers need to be simple, and as frictionless and transparent as possible.

“Aside from GDPR requirements, consumers are generally more willing to share data if the reward is clear and they know that organisations use their data only for the purpose it was originally collected for,” said Kuppinger.

From a business perspective, it is therefore important to ensure that there is a standard approach to customer data throughout the organisation and that personal data is collected only when necessary.

“They need to be clear about what they are collecting, what purpose they are collecting the data, and they must provide processes for consumers to withdraw consent if they wish.”

However, done correctly, collecting and managing consumer information can improve the customer experience, said John Tolbert, lead analyst at KuppingerCole.

“Consumer identity management can also enable new business models, such as freemium models where basic services are provided free with the option of upgrading to paid services or shared revenue models,” he said.

Tolbert also emphasised the importance of making it clear to consumers what they will get in exchange for agreeing to allow businesses to collect and user their data.

“Again, getting the balance right is important because the more data you collect the more friction you add, so collect just enough information to be useful to keep friction to a minimum,” he said.

Tolbert said it is always important to be explicit about information is being collected, collect only what is necessary, and reduce friction by avoiding pop-ups that continually ask for more data.

“Fine-tune how you interrupt visitors to your site, be conservative in the information you collect and always ensure you have good consent management processes to collect and store consent,” he said.

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