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You are here: News » Archived News » Ensure your business is fully protected against cyber attacks

Ensure your business is fully protected against cyber attacks

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The North West Cyber Resilience Centre (NWCRC) is a not-for-profit collaboration between policing, local authorities, the private sector, and academia to strengthen cyber resilience in the North West’s business community. Led by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and Manchester Digital, the centre’s ambition is that every business within the region will have the skills and knowledge to protect themselves from online attacks and make the region one of the safest places to live, work and do business. This is achieved by providing education, testing and training delivered by a team of trusted professionals, seconded police officers and talented cybersecurity students from North West universities.

Business Connect met with DI Dan Giannasi, head of Cyber and Innovation at the North West Cyber Resilience Centre (NWCRC), which was established in 2019 as the first regional cyber resilience centre featured as part of the Government’s National Cyber Strategy 2022. The NWCRC is a trusted, not-for-profit venture between North West Police forces and Manchester Digital.

Dan commented: “Cyber attacks on business are a severe concern for 2024, with a serious attack able to take down a small business. Last year’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey found that a third of all businesses had reported a cyber breach, and almost 70% of large businesses. The same Government survey also found that the average cyber breach can cost a small business around £1,100 and for larger businesses it was up to £5,000. However, a serious attack can take out a business completely, particularly if they are locked out of their IT systems and cannot serve their customers. On top of this, the recent growth of generative AI means that cyber attacks are likely to grow massively in terms of sophistication and frequency. A study by IBM found that 95% of cyber attacks were the result of human error, which is mainly due to people clicking on a phishing email or social media post.

“However, on a positive note, a study from Microsoft found that basic good cyber hygiene practices can prevent 99% of all cyber attacks. So it is incredibly important for businesses to ensure that all of their employees understand the risks posed by cyber hackers, and how to stay vigilant against attack.”

Dan went on to explain the most common forms of cyber attacks are:

  1. Phishing

Phishing attacks remain one of the most common cyber threats targeting businesses in the UK and can often be the start of a more serious attack. According to the UK Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2023, 79% of businesses experienced phishing attacks in the past year alone, making it a significant concern for organisations of all sizes. A phishing email or message is created to look like a trusted source and tricks the reader into clicking a link. The link would then download some malware, which gave fraudsters a way into the business data or IT systems. AI will make it easier to produce more realistic and convincing emails increasing the risk of people falling victim.

  1. Social media account compromise

Social media platforms have become integral to business marketing and communication strategies, but they also present cybersecurity risks. One of the most reported attacks, hackers can take over social media accounts to spread fraudulent adverts, distribute phishing links, or tarnish the organisation’s reputation by posting inappropriate content. These attacks can have far-reaching consequences, including reputational damage and loss of customer trust, but are particularly impactive on micro businesses who may operate entirely through social media platforms.

  1. Ransomware

Ransomware attacks are one of the biggest threats to organisations and have become increasingly sophisticated, especially in recent years. A ransomware attack often gains access through known vulnerabilities in systems or phishing emails and involves malware that encrypts data, essentially holding it to ransom. Criminals will then ask for a financial ransom to release the data or threaten to release the data onto the dark web. Even if the business decides to pay the ransom, there’s no guarantee that their data or IT systems will be restored.

  1. Data breaches

Data breaches can have serious consequences for businesses and other organisations including financial losses, regulatory penalties and reputational damage. These breaches leak sensitive information, such as customer data, password or financial information, putting businesses at risk of legal and financial repercussions, as well as the potential loss of trust from customers.

  1. Supply chain threats

Supply chain vulnerabilities are also a significant cyber risk for businesses, especially those storing important data. Third-party suppliers and partners can act as potential entry points for cyber attackers, compromising the security of the entire supply chain and causing significant disruption to many organisations. Only one in 10 businesses say that they review the risks posed by their suppliers (Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2023). An attack on a critical supplier or a third party losing your valuable data can be as damaging as an attack on your own organisation, so making sure you consider the risks others pose is key. The key security information that businesses need to remember and put into regular practice are:

  • Ensure that all software is kept up to date regularly.
  • Use a password manager for shared passwords, and also educate employees to use safe and secure passwords.
  • Organise cyber awareness training for all employees to reduce your risk of attack.

The NWCRC has a number of regional fully-funded programmes available for small to medium businesses, which encompass training and resources to help protect against cyber threats.

The programmes are funded by the regional police forces from proceeds of crime funding. Currently, there are places available for businesses in Merseyside, Cheshire and Lancashire counties, and the work is aimed at small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) right across the North West region, offering free or low cost training and support for increased cyber resilience. The team is made up of trusted professionals, seconded police officers and innovative ethical hackers. For more information on services and fully-funded membership offers: nwcrc.co.uk

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DI Dan Giannasi, The North West Cyber Resiliency Centre
DI Dan Giannasi, The North West Cyber Resiliency Centre

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