Safer Internet Day is a reminder of the perils of cyber attack

The government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey reporting that two-in-five businesses were hit by cyber attacks in 2021 and 2022
David Armstrong

TODAY marks Safer Internet Day, 24 hours dedicated to keeping ourselves from harm while online.

It's incredibly important for all of us as individuals, particularly those more vulnerable than others – but there's also good reason for businesses to be on their guard as well.

We are only weeks into 2023 but already there have been countless cases of cyber security breaches at major organisations right across the UK – and the costs to those impacted could be vast.

Even the largest companies are at risk. High profile cases this year have included retailer JD Sports which revealed the personal details of as many as 10 million customers may have been leaked in a security breach.

Meanwhile, customers of car dealer Arnold Clark were told their data, including bank details and ID documents, could have been stolen in a similar attack.

Elsewhere, the Royal Mail and the Guardian newspaper became victims of ransomware attacks, where criminals threaten to block systems or release data, among the most common of cyber crimes.

Members of the public were told not to send letters or parcels overseas following the Royal Mail incident.

Other common threats include malware, effectively malicious viruses, or phishing where emails or other digital messages purporting to be from a reputable source are used to gain sensitive information by fraud.

The problem is widespread with the government's Cyber Security Breaches Survey reporting that two-in-five businesses were hit by attacks in 2021 and 2022.

Research from Cisco and the National Centre for the Middle Market meanwhile found that 60 per cent of companies that are breached and have important data stolen go bankrupt within six months.

However, the cost of cyber attacks is not just monetary. For example, outages of service brought about by a breach can result in loss of trust from customers and long term reputational damage.

The rise in working from home, often placing business computer systems away from the security of the office or workplace, have made organisations more vulnerable than ever.

Thankfully, there is a lot that businesses can do to help safeguard against the risks.

Gaining certification via the government's Cyber Essentials scheme is a good start to protecting your business.

It can help you identify where the organisation is currently falling short and how any vulnerabilities can be addressed to safeguard against future attacks.

Working with businesses across all sectors in Northern Ireland, we've seen first-hand the impact of cyber crime.

Seeking professional guidance before the worst happens could ensure your business, and customers, are not left to pick up the pieces following a breach.

:: David Armstrong is chief executive of b4b Group