Cyber-crime: The invisible enemy posing a growing threat for South East businesses and homes
The season of goodwill could become the season of ill will if you fall victim to the cyber criminals
by Mark Hughes, chief executive of BT Security
Cyber-crime is posing a growing threat for businesses and households in the South East.
Whether you are a businessperson in East or West Sussex or a household in Kent, it is vital that we are all prepared to meet this threat.
As an ever increasing number of people and organisations make ever greater use of the internet, the potential impact of cyber-theft, cyber-vandalism and even cyber-extortion is exploding.
It is a daunting thought that there are now about 27 billion devices connected to the internet – well over three times the human population of the world – and that this figure is expected to reach 125 billion within 13 years.
There are growing indications that small and medium sized businesses are increasingly in the firing line of the criminals.
Research by Accenture showed that 55 per cent of British workers can’t recall receiving cyber security training, whilst one in five weren’t sure they could identify a phishing email – a common method used by cyber criminals to raid personal bank accounts.
To give a sense of the scale of the cyber-crime problem, BT’s security team detects 100,000 unique malware samples every day – more than one per second – and protects the BT network against more than 4,000 cyber-attacks daily.
BT has hundreds of analysts, many of them teenagers and reformed hackers or “ethical hackers”, to help against the threat of cyber-crime.
Ransomware also burst into the public consciousness recently as the WannaCry and Petya attacks spread across the world.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of Wannacry was its relatively unsophisticated nature. It was a known vulnerability and a ‘patch’ to deal with it was readily available.
Such outbreaks are a stark reminder to us all to get the basics rights:
- Update your anti-virus software regularly;
- Install patches;
- Invest in regular cyber security training for staff;
- Remind staff to be wary of opening suspicious e-mails or links
Companies need to have robust cyber security strategy and policies, which are kept under review and continuously put to the test. For larger organisations, this can include ‘war games’ to test the response to a cyber crisis. At BT we regularly run sessions pitching so-called ‘red teams’ of ethical hackers trying to penetrate our defences against the ‘blue teams’ protecting the network.
Realistically, online crime is unlikely to be eradicated entirely, but we- Internet Service Providers, Government and other organisations - are stepping up our collective efforts to curb the cyber criminals’ success rates through initiatives such as the Government’s Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership, which BT is supporting.
The cyber threat is also changing. In the case of phishing, for example, criminals are becoming increasingly skilled at creating what appear to be genuine e-mails for people to click on. Even chief executives are at risk with the rise of ‘Whaling’ where phishing techniques are deliberately targeted at board level to impersonate and abuse the board’s authority.
Through collaboration and consensus, I am confident we can win the battle against the rapidly-expanding cyber-crime industry.
Mark Hughes is chief executive of BT Security, which employs more than 2,500 security professionals and operates from 15 Security Operations Centres around the world. BT Security protects some of the world’s best known multinational companies as well as the largest fixed and mobile communications network in the UK.