Almost everything we use in our day-to-day lives relies on the internet, and we depend on technology more and more with every passing year. It is, therefore, no surprise that cyber security threats are at an all-time high.

Data from the Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2022, published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in March, tells us that almost one-third of UK businesses and a quarter of charities experience a cyber security threat every week. The average estimated cost of all cyber attacks between March 2021 and March 2022 amounts to £4,200, rising to £19,400 for medium and large businesses alone. When you add the cost of reputational damage, recovery time and business disruption to these figures, no organisation can afford to overlook cyber security.

Business leaders must ensure they have the right technology and cyber protections in place to prevent and respond to different attacks — no matter how, when and where they strike. So, what are the most common threats to individuals and businesses in today’s world, and what can organisations do to prevent a breach?

Individuals make perfect targets

Individuals are at high risk of cyber attacks. By obtaining personal information like passwords, addresses and pictures, cyber criminals can gain access to private accounts — such as emails and banking apps — to steal money or personal information for use in ransomware and identity scams.

Hackers often rely on human error to execute their attacks, sending carefully crafted messages impersonating other reputable organisations — a social engineering scam known as phishing. Phishing scams have been prevalent since before the coronavirus outbreak, with scammers regularly impersonating official organisations such as the NHS Test and Trace service to get innocent people to click on malicious links.

Suffering a cyber attack can be very stressful and lead to financial losses for individuals, but it can also lead to further consequences for businesses. Should a hacker find unprotected, business-sensitive data once they have infiltrated a device or remote working system, nothing is stopping them from using it to launch a further attack on that system.

As a result, businesses need to take a company-wide approach to cyber security to ensure no weak link provides a point of access for a hacker.

Businesses struggle to manage risks

The unprecedented pressure that the pandemic put businesses under has impacted management and employees alike, resulting in significant changes to working behaviours — often to the detriment of enterprise IT security.

Many companies have neglected cyber hygiene, with business leaders prioritising more immediate concerns. As a result, organisations are at a greater risk of experiencing a cyber attack than ever before, with outdated systems and inadequate training presenting ideal vulnerabilities for cyber criminals to exploit.

Additionally, growing numbers of contractor or third-party supplier employees necessitate more new staff having access to company systems. In addition to the rise in work-from-home employees, this opens the door to online threats that are likely to slip under the radar as more individuals work from unprotected remote networks and away from the watchful eye of already-overwhelmed IT departments.

As such, every organisation must ensure all staff are aware of various cyber threats. By providing formal training and regular guidance and promoting awareness about the different types of cyber attacks, individuals and businesses can prevent falling victim to a breach.

Tackling cyber security threats from every angle

Implementing cyber security best practices can significantly lower the chances of a business becoming the next victim of a data breach or scam — and alleviate the burden on internal IT teams.

The first step in improving your organisation’s cyber security is understanding the breadth and depth of security controls: safeguards, parameters or countermeasures designed to minimise security risks to digital assets. Several security controls should be applied in any organisation; conducting a controls assessment (e.g., ISO/IEC27001, NIST 53-800, NIST CSF or the CSA Cloud Control Matrix) will highlight where the most significant gaps are.

In the meantime, some quick-win solutions are relatively simple to implement and will make a big difference to your company’s level of security.

Use strong passwords

A weak password is the most common access point for a hacker. Strengthen your passwords and use a different one for each account to reduce the risk of being hacked.

Adopt multi-factor authentication

Multi-factor authentication lets account owners in whilst keeping hackers out. Implementing this in your workplace helps ensure only your employees have access to sensitive information.

Scan and monitor

Conducting vulnerability scanning of applications, code scanning for developers and event monitoring can help identify and correct system vulnerabilities and exploits in business applications.

Protect Wi-Fi networks

Changing your network name will make it harder for cyber security criminals to guess your default settings. Using Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) — the second generation of the Wi-Fi Protected Access wireless security protocol — will ensure data sent or received over your wireless network is encrypted.

Install protection

Complete endpoint protection software, including anti-virus, can help secure your business against cyber threats by actively scanning and blocking potential attacks, thus preventing you from accessing suspicious websites or attachments.

Foster a cyber-aware culture

Human error is a leading cause of cyber attacks, as scams and breaches can be easy to miss by an untrained eye. Comprehensive cyber security training and excellent cyber hygiene are crucial to protecting your business.

Seek advice to get cyber secure

Although the above recommendations will help improve your company’s cyber security, the best way to protect your business from a cyber attack is to implement a bespoke, people-centric, business-process led IT strategy that addresses your security needs.

A lot goes into building a cyber security system, from finding appropriate risk management software to training IT teams and educating your workforce. Plus, cyber security systems need consistent monitoring to ensure they are performing optimally.

These procedures can be costly when poorly implemented, extraordinarily time-consuming, and distract operational teams, especially when running a business. Therefore, although it is possible to manage your organisation’s cyber security internally, you may risk overloading operational teams and sacrificing efficiency in the process.

As a result, more and more business leaders are outsourcing their security management to specialist providers. By doing so, you can ensure your organisation benefits from the latest technology updates and industry insights to keep your business secure without compromising productivity.

Burning Tree’s consultancy services can help you identify weak points in your current cyber security strategy — or implement an entirely new one — with leading technology solutions. Contact us today at 01252 843014 or email to discuss our cyber security improvement services for your business.