In order for organizations to effectively manage cyber-risks, it is important to first understand the nature of cyber-criminals, their motivations, and the potential impact of cyber-attacks. In our interconnected world, it is likely that almost every business has some degree of cyber-exposure. This means that regardless of whether you handle financial transactions or store confidential customer data, your organization may be a target for cyber-criminals. Therefore, it is crucial for businesses to be proactive in addressing potential cyber-risks and taking appropriate measures to protect their sensitive information.
Cyber-criminals are often much more sophisticated than they are given credit for. Here are the
most common threats to your business:
While employees are typically viewed as valuable assets for an organization, they can also pose significant threats. In certain instances, employees may inadvertently put confidential information in jeopardy through careless handling of cyber-security measures. Alternatively, individuals who are disgruntled – whether currently employed or former workers who still have system access – may sabotage assets or steal proprietary information as a means of retaliation. However, the ramifications of a cyber-attack are not limited solely to data breaches; such incidents can also result in IT failures that disrupt business operations, thereby causing the organization to incur financial and time-related costs.
In recent years, cyber-crime has emerged as an increasingly sophisticated and lucrative industry – so much so that it has now surpassed the drug trade to become one of the most profitable illegal activities worldwide. The economic impact of cyber-crime is particularly significant in the UK, where it costs billions of pounds each year. Given the size of potential financial gains, it is not surprising that organised cyber-criminals tend to be primarily motivated by monetary gain. These criminal groups often target personally identifiable information such as credit card details, banking information, National Insurance numbers, and health records. Once this data is acquired, it may be held for ransom or sold on the dark web in order to generate profits.
‘Hacktivists’ are individuals or groups who combine the skills of hacking with activism in order to pursue a political agenda. Their primary goal is often to carry out attacks that generate publicity or inflict damage upon organizations they disagree with. This form of cyber-vandalism may involve activities such as stealing incriminating information or tarnishing reputations. Due to the often isolated nature of their work, many hacktivists operate independently, which can make it more difficult for organizations to predict or defend against their attacks.
While it may seem like something from a movie, the threat of cyber-attacks and espionage by government-sponsored groups is a real and pressing concern. These criminals are typically well-funded and are driven by a range of motives, including political, economic, technical, or military objectives. Government-sponsored attacks tend to be highly sophisticated and often target sensitive and proprietary data that is crucial to an organization’s competitive edge. In some cases, these groups have even set their sights on critical infrastructure systems like energy facilities, which can have widespread and significant effects on businesses or even entire cities. Such attacks typically involve the use of multiple hacking strategies over an extended period of time in order to gain prolonged access to an organization’s network.
Click here to read our in-depth guide: Guide-to-Cyber-risks-for-Directors-and-Officers.pdf (43 downloads)
What’s at risk?
In the face of an ever-increasing threat of cyber-attacks, it is critical for businesses of all sizes to take proactive measures to safeguard their systems. While larger corporations are making efforts to secure their networks, smaller and less secure businesses are now becoming more attractive targets for cyber-criminals.
Productivity and operations
A single cyber-attack can have a severe and lasting impact on a business, causing widespread disruption to productivity and operations. When a cyber-event occurs, a company may lose its ability to service customers, and employees may be unable to carry out their work, resulting in costly downtime. The effects of such an event can be catastrophic, leaving the organization struggling to continue operating. Unfortunately, many businesses lack the resources necessary to quickly detect and resolve cybersecurity issues, further prolonging the disruption and exacerbating the damage caused by the attack.
Banking credentials are highly sought-after by cyber-criminals, who often target thriving businesses with large payrolls. With stolen banking credentials, malicious actors can easily impersonate the business or its employees, granting them access to sensitive financial information. This makes businesses vulnerable to devastating cyber-attacks that can drain entire accounts in a matter of minutes.
Confidential information – Many businesses collect and store confidential information, such as intellectual property, trade secrets, and other proprietary data. Cyber-criminals are aware of the value of this information and will try to steal it to sell to competitors or use it for their gain. A single cyber-attack can lead to the loss of sensitive data, which can harm the company’s reputation, result in legal disputes and hefty financial penalties, and ultimately lead to bankruptcy. Protecting confidential information should be a top priority for any business to prevent the loss of valuable assets.
Cyber-attacks can result in not only digital losses but also physical damage to an organisation’s assets. Some might assume that the financial impact of a cyber-attack is only related to digital assets, such as lost data and the expenses associated with investigating and reporting the breach. However, cyber-attacks can also cause harm to physical assets. For example, hackers can gain access to computer systems or apps that control equipment at a business and manipulate it to cause damage to the equipment or other property. As more items become part of the Internet of Things, such as vehicles, homes, and HVAC systems, the risk of physical damage resulting from a cyber-attack will only increase.
Directors and officers bear the general responsibility for carrying out cybersecurity initiatives within a company, and it is essential that they provide sufficient oversight. Ultimately, senior leadership is accountable for ensuring that all team members comprehend their respective roles and obligations.
You have a responsibility to build a team of experts that will ensure your organisation is adequately prepared should a cyber-attack occur.
It can be difficult to attract and retain cyber professionals. As a result, building out an organisation’s cyber expertise isn’t necessarily about recruiting and instead involves upskilling. When creating a team of cyber experts, it’s important to remember that the skillsets you need will vary from role to role. While you may need networking or infrastructure professionals, it’s equally necessary to secure staff who have an understanding of cyber issues and train others on complex concepts.