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How’s your cyber hygiene?

Last week’s Conservative conference might have had a ‘ring of steel’ around the main event in central Manchester, but there was plenty going on at the ‘fringe’ if you knew where to look – especially for business. 

A fringe event at the Jury’s Inn hotel on cybercrime saw Minister of State for Security, Ben Wallace, among a panel of industry experts from across the North exploring the subject and discussing what government is doing to prevent it, and what businesses can and should be doing to safeguard themselves better. 

A term that cropped up repeatedly was ‘cyber hygiene’ –  a new industry buzzword which means how an organisation – any organisation – establishes and maintains online safety. It is the online analogy of personal hygiene, and encapsulates the daily routines, occasional checks and general behaviours required to maintain a user’s online ‘health’. 

Staying with the analogy, the message from the panel was that still too many people need to give themselves a good scrub! All businesses, all organisations, whether public or private sector, and regardless of size, must, repeat must, be cyber aware. At the moment, that’s not happening enough, nor is it given the prominence it should be given, especially by business – including smaller ones. This ‘culture’ has to change as we move, as an economy, in to a world increasingly focussed on ‘digital’.

Remember the WannaCry Ransomware virus that affected the NHS earlier this year? That, according to the Minister, Ben Wallace, served as a real wakeup call for many, including government. It took down three A&E departments for six days – and had that happened in winter, when the NHS was under more pressure, lives could have been lost. Scary thought.

So critical is cyber security now, it’s actually one of the top five civil contingency issues for local and national governments. It’s up there with flooding, terrorism, and attack by a foreign power. That latter point leads on quite nicely to the people who are actually perpetrating mass cyber-crime. Sometimes the teenage geek, but all too often, agents of a foreign power. Sometimes they are attempting to hack business data, or blueprints, or information that will help their own domestic agendas, but often, it’s an attack for attacks sake, and with the most obscure targets. 

Here’s a frightening stat for any business owner out there: two thirds of businesses suffer a data breach every year, but only one in five have a plan in place to deal with it. That’s not the frightening bit though, which is, most of those breaches are internal – i.e. your staff, intentional or not.

So, we all need to improve our cyber hygiene. We need a cultural shift to be more aware of the issues, the implications, and the ramifications.  The panel went so far as to say all businesses recruiting at director level, need to be scrutinising candidates on their cyber credentials. If they don’t have any, look elsewhere.

FSB members click HERE to learn more about FSB Cyber Protection to see what FSB is doing to safeguard small firms from the hackers.