According to a recent report from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), one in five British firms was the victim of a cyber-attack last year. Of the 1,200 firms surveyed, only a quarter said they had implemented the security measures necessary to protect themselves against hacking.
These worrying statistics highlight just how vulnerable the business community remains to data breaches, even after an unprecedented period of public disclosures. Britain's businesses cannot continue to treat cyber security as a box-ticking exercise and risk falling foul of harmful attacks.
Whether you're a CEO of a multinational organisation, or the founder of a boutique startup finding your feet, there are a number of basic steps you can take to protect the assets of both yourself, and your company:
First, invest in the necessary technology.
This may seem obvious, but businesses today inevitably confront an increasingly complicated digital landscape. However, this is no excuse for not investing in proven, best practice-based defence mechanisms that both protect against attacks, and quickly detect them so potential damages can be limited.
Business leaders today have to weigh the risk between increasing their technology investment and standing pat in the face of escalating threats. In the case of cyber security, given the cataclysmic impact a severe hack can have, bypassing an important investment choice simply isn't a viable option.
Second, remember that no company is too big to fail.
A company's name and reputation alone are not enough to prevent it from getting caught in a hacker's blast radius.
Large-scale data breaches have recently been convulsing the corporate skeletons of some of the world's most renowned companies. Just last year for example, web giant Yahoo admitted that the data of around a billion users was stolen in what is potentially the world's largest ever publicly disclosed breach. The mammoth hack reportedly cost the company $350 million.
No matter the size, sector or stature, firms across the business community are susceptible to hacks that have a crippling effect on their bottom line, flat lining employee confidence and incurring significant customer losses.
Third, it is not just the IT department's concern any more.
The latest government figures on cyber security breaches revealed that nearly half (46%) of British businesses discovered at least one cybersecurity breach or attack in the past year. Interestingly the study also revealed that less than a third (29%) of those companies surveyed had assigned a specific board member to be responsible for their firm's cybersecurity.
The risk for businesses of having valuable data - both their own sensitive data and that of their customers - falling into the hands of a malicious hacker, and becoming tomorrow's headline is simply too colossal for board members to ignore.
Boards need to focus on positioning cyber as front of mind across the business community and drive fundamental change across their organisations to highlight the importance of diligent data handling practices - with clear accountability.
Fourth, break down silos, and share and share alike.
By fostering deeper collaboration and educating each other on the most effective attack techniques and tactics to combat emerging threats, this can strengthen the collective resolve of businesses to present a unified front to the cadre of hackers.
Not only internally, but externally too, organisations need to be sharing their information, intelligence and insight freely with peers, to help rather than hinder efforts to counter the axis of hacking power. Knowledge is power and sharing is key!
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