protect against cybercrime

The May 2017 ransomware attack on the NHS crippled 47 trusts across England and Scotland. At least 6,900 appointments were cancelled and seven A&E departments were forced to turn ambulances away. This demonstrates the significant damage that cyber-attacks can cause. Here, Nigel Crockford, business development manager of IT consultancy eSpida, discusses what businesses must consider to protect themselves in 2018’s IT landscape.

 Back in 1995, when Bill Gates set up Windows 95, there were very few IT applications and, according to www.internetlivestats.com, only 0.8 per cent of the world’s population had internet access at home. Therefore, the risk of cyber-attacks was relatively low.

Since then, the IT landscape has changed dramatically. It was estimated by www.internetlivestats.com that in 2016, 46.1 per cent of the world’s population had internet access at home — a huge increase since 1995. A single device is now capable of processing an extraordinary number of applications and cloud technology means data can be easily shared between devices. These technological advancements have considerably increased the risk of cyber-attacks.

There are things that every business must do to protect its employees, customers and stakeholders from the potentially damaging effects of attacks such as the ransomware attack on the NHS.

Everybody is a security officer

The task of ensuring cyber security in a business can no longer fall to one or two security officers. Everybody must have an awareness of the potential threats, how to protect against them and how to respond in the case of a security breach.

The cyber-security of a business increases considerably if everybody takes simple but effective protective measures. These measures must include installing antivirus software, keeping all software updated, identifying suspicious popups and regularly changing passwords. Common sense is the first line of defence.

Comply with GDPR

In May 2018, the new general data protection regulations (GDPR) will enforce new mandatory requirements for businesses. In essence, you will need to know exactly where all data is stored, how it is held and how it can be accessed.

By complying with these regulations, you will be helping to keep your business’s data and IT systems safe from cyber-crime.

Have a strategy in place

The key to dealing with cyber-crime is to protect, detect and respond. Once an attacker has access to data, it’s extremely difficult to retrieve it. Therefore, prevention is better than cure.

Regardless of how well you protect your business, cyber-attacks may still occur, so everybody must know the signs. According to a 2017 cyber security breaches survey from the Government’s department for digital, culture, media and sport, 46 per cent of organisations had experienced a cyber-attack in the past twelve months. However, many others may have been attacked but did not realise.

To make sure you detect any cyber-attacks that you may fall victim to, look out for unusual password activity notifications, slow network speed and suspicious e-mails or popups — all of which could indicate a breach.

Businesses must also be prepared to respond to a cyber-attack. As of May 2018, the GDPR will state that a cyber breach must be reported in 72 hours. Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to €20 million or four per cent of your business’s global turnover. In addition to reporting the attack, the breach should be contained by shutting down all IT equipment and assess all systems that could have been compromised.

The May 2017 attack was the largest cyber-attack the NHS has ever fallen victim to. NHS England stated that no patient data was compromised and the staff response was commendable. However, this attack may potentially have been avoided if the NHS had been more diligent in its cyber protection measures.

If you are worried about your current security set up and need some advice, contact eSpida today on 0344 880 6145 or email [email protected] 

GDPR will affect multinational organisations

Many businesses are yet to understand the sheer scale and breadth of changes their company data processing policies will need to undergo to comply with the general data protection regulation (GDPR). Here, Nigel Crockford, Business Development Manager at IT consultancy eSpida, explains how the regulation will impact multinational businesses — and how they must prepare themselves.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. This statement will ring especially true for multinational businesses in the coming months as the GDPR comes into force across the European Union (EU).

By uniting 28 different EU member state laws under one data protection law, GDPR is set to harmonise data protection laws throughout the EU, giving greater rights to individuals.

Taking effect as of May 25, 2018, every business will need to alter their existing procedures to ensure the correct mechanisms to comply with GDPR are in place. Failure to comply with the regulation will result in costly penalties of four per cent of global annual turnover or €20 million, whichever value is greater.

Non-compliant businesses could also be faced with bans or suspensions on processing data, in addition to the risk of class actions and criminal sanctions.

GDPR and multinationals
To enforce the regulation, each country will have its own national data protection act (DPA) regulator that will oversee and manage any breaches. Businesses operating in multiple EU countries have frequently asked since the announcement of GDPR, how an authority will be chosen to enforce action if found non-compliant with the regulation, or if an authority from each EU affiliate would take action.

If a business has conducted non-compliant cross-border data processing activities, only one national DPA regulator must act on the complaint. For instances where a business’ data controller operates in multiple EU countries, the DPA regulator that will take action must be located in the same country as the organisation’s main establishment, or where it’s central administration takes place.

Non-EU affiliates of a multinational business will also be impacted by the GDPR, depending on whether the data is accessible from one central system to affiliates across the globe. Companies operating on this scale will need to have a clear understanding of how data flows in the company to ensure that cross-border data transfers are compliant.

This is just one example of how GDPR is introducing formal processes for issues not previously covered by the DPA. Another area that the ruling focusses on is when a data breach occurs.

In 2016, it was revealed that Yahoo had suffered a cyberattack that resulted in three billion users having their account details leaked. What was appalling to the public, however, was that the attack had taken place three years prior to the incident being reported.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. In 2017, Uber revealed that data of its users had been held to ransom by hackers in 2016, prompting similar backlash to the Yahoo breach.

Under GDPR, companies are required to report a breach within 72 hours of its discovery. This includes notifying the country’s DPA regulator, which in the UK is the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), and the people it impacts. Businesses should also consider taking additional steps to avoid the detrimental impact cyber breaches can have on its employees and customers.

Preparing to succeed
Identity management is just one example that allows companies to restrict access to certain resources within a system. Identity management can define what users can accomplish on the network depending on varying factors including the person’s location and device type.

With the rise in cloud computing among businesses, extra measures should also be taken to safeguard this data. A survey found that 41 per cent of businesses were using the public cloud for their work, with 38 per cent on a private cloud network. By implementing security measures like encryption software, businesses can prevent unauthorised access to digital information.

Taking these precautionary steps is necessary for businesses with more than 250 employees. This is because a business of this size, following the introduction of GDPR, must detail what information they are collecting and processing. This includes how long the information will be stored for and what technical security measures are in place to safeguard the information.

In addition to identity management and encryption software, businesses can also consider various other security tools for their systems, including anti-ransomware, exploit prevention and access management.

Another notable change for companies that have regular and systematic monitoring of individual data, or process a vast amount of sensitive personal data, is that they will now be required to employ a data protection officer (DPO). Sensitive data refers to genetic data and any personal information such as religious and political views.

GDPR will have a wide-ranging impact on multinational businesses. Although some may be more prepared than others, each business’ status in complying with GDPR is different, with no one solution suiting all. By investing in GDPR compliance specialists like eSpida, businesses can avoid costly fines because of discrepancies with the regulation.

It’s fair to say that the GDPR is the most meaningful change in data privacy law since it was first established over twenty years ago. Despite it currently only being enforced in the EU, many believe this will spark a revolution across the globe for the protection of data for individuals.

Businesses must prioritise updating their current systems to ensure their processing policies are compliant with the GDPR. Depending on the current position of a business, some may need more preparation than others. For example, not every business will be required to employ a DPO, but others may need to reorganise its HR team to help enforce GDPR compliance across a company.

With May just around the corner, businesses who have not already started preparing need to act now to avoid financial punishments and reputation repercussions.

IT Security
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IT security solutions

Most IT security professionals would agree that it is no longer a matter of if you get breached, it is a matter of when. And with the media awash with news informing us of businesses or government organisations suffering data breaches and high-profile attacks, security teams are being held accountable for addressing risks – externally as well as internally.

It is now more important than ever that IT departments take a structured approach to their organisations cyber security. While there are some basic network security measures that every IT department is aware of, such as the use of firewalls and antivirus software, there are also other best practices, policies and procedures that some organisations do not yet follow.

The following IT security best practices should all be taken into consideration:

Update of Software and Systems

Cyber criminals are constantly inventing different techniques and finding new vulnerabilities.  The majority of malware does not target new and unknown security vulnerabilities, it seeks out well-known and established exploits that have been fixed in the latest versions of firmware in the hope that organisations do not update.

To keep your network protected and optimised ensure that software and hardware security is up-to-date with the latest patches and firmware.

Backup of Data

Data backups are a basic security measure that has gained increased relevance over the past few years.  With the rise in Ransomware attacks, designed to encrypt all of an organisations data until the decryption key is paid for, a complete and current backup of all data is crucial.

Backed up data must be properly protected and encrypted with backups made frequently so if a backup does need to be utilised, the information is as up-to-date as possible.

Prevent Data Loss. Protect Your Data

A lot of organisations do rely on the trust and honesty of their employees. However, this does not stop data from leaving the organisation in one shape or form.  In truth users with or without knowing it allow data to be breached, leaked or stolen with more and more IT security teams admitting that the top security concern in recent years has been data leaving an endpoint.

It is now more important than ever to control user access, monitor activity and know what is happening with company data.

Monitoring User and Third Party Activity

Users with privileged accounts have an increased level of trust, but at the same time can pose one of the biggest threats to data security.  These users have the tools to pilfer sensitive data from organisations and go unnoticed. When undetected, insider threats can be costly to organisations.

The monitoring of user activity allows IT security teams to detect unauthorised behaviour and verify user actions so they do not violate security policies.

Educate and Train Users

When we talk about cyber security, users are generally considered the weakest link. However, raising user’s awareness around the cyber threats the business faces and educating users on cyber security best practice enables organisations to limit the risk of data breach and loss.

End user training can include topics such as:

  • The ability to identify malicious emails (Spam, Phishing).
  • The importance of creating strong passwords.
  • The risks surrounding the removal of valuable data from the company via various media.

Use Two Factor Authentication

Organisations are being encouraged to apply this security standard to their user accounts as added protection.  It employs an additional device such as a security token or mobile device (for soft tokens) to confirm the identity of the user.

Two factor authentication adds a second layer of security to your network and provides a very reliable procedure for user login activities.

Changing Default Passwords

Many systems now come with a set of default credentials hard coded into the device’s software. These are usually freely available to obtain on the internet and are relatively well known by cyber criminals.

Most malware targeting networks are looking for system that have not had the default credentials changed in order to hijack them.  The only way to ensure that your devices cannot be so easily hijacked and infected is to change all default passwords as soon as possible and ensure that the replacement passwords are complex and unique and are changed on a regular password management cycle.

Handling Passwords Securely

With two factor authentication providing user accounts with extra security, organisations cannot afford for users to view this as an excuse to overlook password handling security policies.

Employees need to be educated to ensure their passwords are long, complex and fully unique.  They must also not share credentials with one another. While they may find this convenient, it is placing the organisation in an unsafe position and at a heightened risk of data breach or leak.

While this seems a lot to implement, once the majority of practices are in place they require very little intervention.  They should be monitored in the background and will only require attention if a security issue arises.

Don’t wait for the worst to happen.  Adopt these security best practices and be prepared for the worst.