Businesses in the UK have been on the receiving end of malicious threats from cybercriminals. There have been reports of significant data breaches compromising their IT system, customers’ data, and reputation. A study by Carbon Black revealed the sheer volume of attacks, with 88% of UK companies acknowledging they experienced a data breach in the past 12 months.
As attacks continue to increase, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis, data protection is becoming an important consideration for businesses. But according to a recent report, only 31% of organizations have done a cyber risk assessment over the last year. Businesses need to take more precautions to secure their IT infrastructure and protect their customers.
Some of the biggest cyber-attacks in the UK
While businesses are under severe economic strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic, they are also grappling with cyberattacks from threat actors. This is especially true for companies that have shifted to remote working. The situation is the perfect opportunity for cybercriminals because home offices are less secure, and employees have limited IT support. As a result, cyberattacks such as phishing emails and ransomware are on the rise.
Phishing campaigns are designed to obtain sensitive information from individuals and businesses. The emails often appear to be coming from a trusted or official source, tricking persons into clicking on malicious links that take them to a fake website. One recent campaign is businesses being targeted by scammers impersonating Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. This HMRC scam is exploiting financial fears of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This kind of attack can be very costly for businesses. Ransomware distributes a malware that infects a user’s device and encrypts their data. When this happens, the user is essentially locked out of the system and can only regain access after making a payment to the perpetrators. Recently, there has been an upsurge in ransomware attacks on the education sector affecting schools, colleges, and universities in the UK.
5 ways businesses and individuals can protect their system and data
One way a business can protect data transmitted over the internet is by ensuring the information is encrypted. A virtual private network (VPN) encrypts data and prevents hackers from accessing confidential information. This means that any document, email, or financial information shared between employees remotely will remain private. Companies can use a business VPN or encourage their remote workers to install a VPN for network encryption.
Use two-factor authentication
Another way to enhance security is through the use of two-factor authentication. This extra layer of protection is designed to prevent unauthorized access to a device or account by requiring additional authentication beyond just a username and password. If a password gets stolen in a phishing attack, 2FA is an excellent way for businesses and individuals to lock hackers out of their devices. There are different types of 2FA, such as a fingerprint, a PIN sent to your smartphone, or security tokens.
Use hard-to-guess passwords
Formulating a strong and unique password should be well-thought-out; however, many persons spend little effort on this task. A simple password can be cracked easily by sophisticated hackers. Businesses must implore employees to change their passwords regularly and to make them difficult to decipher. Create hard-to-guess passwords with a combination of upper letters, numbers, and special characters.
Update software regularly
The next important security step that individuals and businesses can take to prevent a data breach is keeping all application software and operating systems updated. When patches are installed, they address known security vulnerabilities and stop attackers from infiltrating the network. Updates should be installed once they become available.
Finally, cybersecurity training and education is paramount for businesses. Transitioning to remote working has left many employees unprepared to deal with cybersecurity issues. Businesses need to implement company wide training at all levels, so users know how to safeguard data and secure their devices. Employees should be taught about the different types of phishing attacks and how to avoid those pitfalls. An educated workforce is a solid defense against cyberattacks.