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Time to brush up your cybersecurity

24th Apr 2019
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Cyber security concept
istock_Andrii Panchyk_aw

I found the news that over half of all British businesses had already reported cyber-attacks in 2019 quite terrifying.

If nothing else, given that the relevant survey by insurers Hiscox can have taken place no later than mid-April, the implication is that each and every business in the country will suffer from an attack on their computer systems at some point this year.

On average, such attacks will take place a couple of times a year in 2019 and ever after, although in reality they seem to be spiralling so it is only going to get much, much worse.

A second project by the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) goes part of the way to explaining why. This one would be funny if it wasn’t quite so frightening.

Apparently, not only do many computer users utilise the same passwords repeatedly, allowing criminals to find a pattern and rob us blind, but those passwords are hardly inventive.

Would you believe that the most popular password currently in use is 123456 achieving 23m votes (6m more than wanted Brexit), with 123456789 coming in a relatively close second? Perhaps not, if you fall into one of the almost equally large and stupid groups that favours "qwerty", "password" or "1111111".

Names are also a potential stumbling block. On the one hand, it is hardly difficult to guess that many will use those of their much-loved spouses, children or pets. On the other, no self-respecting husband or wife will be that delighted to discover a password designed to remind its user of their latest illicit love affair.

The British have a passion for addressing tricky cyber security issues in what we see as highly appropriate, stiff upper lip, fashion. We typically ignore the issue completely in the vain hope that it will go away.

That is just not good enough when livelihoods could be threatened by a malicious offender who might only be 12 years old but could still lock your business’ whole computer system for days or weeks.

With the publication of these two reports, this has to be the time to take serious and constructive action. If you do not want to spend money on a consultant who can offer the greatest protection possible, at the very least make sure that you and your staff change passwords regularly and don’t use obvious configurations.

Still at a basic level, remind your workers that if they receive an email from an unknown sender, they should not click on links or open files, let alone send blackmailers money. They should also be instructed to speak with your in-house IT specialist to work out the best means of blocking future incursions.

I almost forgot because it is so blindingly obvious but you should also use strong antivirus and anti-spyware software and make sure that it is kept up-to-date.

Sorry for the scare story but you know it makes sense and, if you still plan to ignore the problem, just bear in mind the kind of fact always rings true with accountants – the typical cybercrime now costs corporate victims around £250,000.

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