Business

Something to ‘CHEW' over this summer . . .

IN 1967 we had the Summer of Love. Bryan Adams immortalised the Summer of ‘69 and in 1976 we enjoyed the closest thing to a perfect summer with temperatures hitting 80°F for 25 straight days across the UK.

So what might summer 2017 hold in store for us? Unless something unexpectedly cheerful happens, it may well be a summer filled with Donald Trump, Brexit and cyber security – or perhaps more accurately - a lack of cyber security. That's a pretty sobering threesome!

Much has already been said about Trump and Brexit, but cyber security has now emerged as an issue of national security. The hackers' motivations are varied, but have been abridged as ‘CHEW' – Criminal, Hactivist, Espionage and War reasons.

Sadly, what would have looked good as the plotline to a James Bond movie has now moved from the silver screen to reality.

The recent ‘ransomware' attacks are a portent of things to come. As computers around the world were held ‘hostage', possibly by the North Koreans, the crippling effects of a breach in cyber security were laid bare.

In a rather precipitous speech last month the FCA examined the ‘threat landscape', pointing out that the last year had seen the “re-emergence of some old foes such as ransomware and the development of some innovative and dangerous criminal networks”.

The speed and scale of attacks is rather chilling. Such is their sophistication, company IT systems may be inundated with assaults at a speed of 1.5 terrabytes per second – that's roughly 1.5 trillion bytes.

With regard to ransomware, the choices which face a business can be pretty stark with some hackers penetrating back-up systems. By destroying your only way to recover data the choice is pay-up or face potential chaos. As the FCA put it, that's “a pretty effective business model if you're a criminal.”

It's not just your network laptops or desktops which are being targeted. All those new smart TVs, fridges, routers and cameras are also on the hackers' hit list. Once compromised, the devices are installed with malicious software and used, among other things, to send spam without your knowledge.

The risk of attack and the sophistication of attackers are on the increase. Small firms may be less at risk than Plcs, but they all stand to suffer if consumer confidence falters, if data is stolen or a larger firm is undermined with knock-on effects for its business customers.

The threat is real, but that doesn't mean that firms are helpless. As someone from the insurance sector you'd expect me to advise you to make sure that your policies cover cyber breaches. But that's just the start.

The market for cyber insurance has grown rapidly in line with attacks and, consequently, can be complex. It's particularly important to seek professional guidance to clarify that what your company is covered for, is the same as what you believe it is covered for.

As part of a review of your security protocols, make sure that there's no disconnect within your organisation. Those traditionally responsible for purchasing insurance may not be overly familiar with cyber threats. Heads of IT and finance need to know jointly what your potential exposure is and then have an informed conversation with your insurer. The hackers have no respect for departmental boundaries, nor should you.

:: Michael Blaney is managing director of the Autoline Insurance Group (www.autoline.co.uk)

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