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Cyber attacks are on the rise. With approximately 2,200 attacks per year, the need for cyber security awareness has never been more important. Charlotte Knill, Regional Cyber Protect Officer at the North East Regional Organised Crime Unit (NEROCU), explains more.
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A cyber attack can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter what sector you work in or your background, cyber criminals have a persistent skill in targeting weak areas of organisations.
Although our understanding of cyber risks, including phishing emails and secure passwords has improved, unfortunately, several businesses still face challenges today.
Charlotte Knill, Regional Cyber Protect Officer at the North East Regional Organised Crime Unit (NEROCU), works within the regional cybercrime team which delivers free support across Northumbria, Durham, and Cleveland areas.
Given the complexity of cyber attacks, the unit operates both reactively and proactively. Proactive work involves working with business and organisations to help them continually improve their cyber hygiene – this is done through a number of free services they provide which includes staff awareness sessions, cyber exercising and being on hand for general advice and guidance. The reactive work consists of working with those who are victims of a cyber attack and providing them with the relevant support and guidance to help them get back on track.
Through training with businesses, individuals and organisations, Charlotte and her team of dedicated Cyber Protect Officers are on hand help individuals to understand the threat posed by cyber criminals whilst also providing support should an incident occur.
After working with organisations of all sizes and variations, Charlotte continues to ask the important question, “Could you operate offline?”
Nothing can prepare you for a cyber attack. However, should it happen, there are measures businesses can take to prevent its impact. The first question Charlotte asks organisations is whether they could operate completely offline, relying on more traditional means such as paper.
For example, if you are subjected to a cyber attack which has compromised all your online files and tools, what can you use to ensure that you continue to operate as a business?
Additionally, companies should outline the steps they can take to bring them back online. Charlotte adds,
A lot of the time, we take technology for granted. When digital disruption occurs, it could result in your systems being down so businesses need to incorporate backup measures to allow them to get up and running as soon as possible so that they don’t have any further loss.
Thinking outside of the box is a large aspect of cyber awareness, as cyber criminals have a unique ability to target the weakest points of a business, such as weak passwords, email chains and unprotected files.
Backing up your data for disaster recovery is one of the ways to minimise impact, including both online and offline.
Having your data safely backed up can operate as a failsafe should the worst happen as it means you hold a separate copy of your most important data that is kept disconnected from your regular devices and network. By storing data offline, it is less likely to be compromised in a cyber incident so even if your main systems are affected, you have a better chance of restoring your information and preventing the loss of crucial data.
Examples of offline backups include external devices such as USBs, external hard drives or an offline server. Examples of online backups include cloud storage services or there may be backup software solutions available which connect to remote servers.
This process should be regularly tested to ensure that it works within your organisation and all employees understand the steps to recovery in the event of an attack.
A cyber incident can happen to a business of any size and different budget constraints can affect how many cyber security measures and business will be able to implement.
There are several free tools and resources available which can set you off to a good start when it comes to improving cyber hygiene across your organisation. We have listed some of these below:
Charlotte and the team can guide you through which of these tools would be most appropriate for you, explain how they all work and also discuss many other options that are also available.
If you find yourself in this situation, please be reassured there is support and guidance available to you. Businesses and organisations may not feel comfortable reporting a cyber attack for various reasons but it is important to report an incident as soon as possible to minimise any potential consequences that may unfold.
In addition to any internal procedures you may have in place already, we advise businesses to report incidents to Action Fraud via their website at www.actionfraud.police.uk or contact them on 0300 123 2040.
Action Fraud is the UK’s national reporting centre for victims of cybercrime and fraud. When Action Fraud receive your report, they will help you with the next steps which will include notifying the cyber team in your local police force who will work alongside the NEROCU to guide you through the recovery process as well as dedicated IT departments or similar depending on your internal setup.
If you suspect your data has been compromised, it’s crucial to take immediate and systematic steps to respond to the incident.
The first step is to report it to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). By law, you are obliged to report any personal data breaches within 72 hours of becoming aware of them, unless you can prove that the breach is unlikely to pose a risk.
More guidance on reporting a breach can be found on the ICO website at www.ico.org.uk.
In the occurrence of a data breach, the Information Commissioner’s Office will work to help you mitigate the impact of the event and provide information to your staff regarding what type of data has been compromised.
The rise of artificial intelligence no doubt brings to some a wave of optimism and excitement, but also scepticism and doubt to others. As with any new technology, it all depends on how it’s developed and used. Charlotte adds,
Artificial intelligence is a great resource. However, when used incorrectly, it may lower the barrier of entry for people committing crimes.
There is a risk of AI-related scams and cyber attacks becoming more commonplace thus prompting an urgent need for enhanced cybersecurity measures and increased awareness among individuals and organisations.
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Addressing these challenges can feel slightly intimidating in the face of ever-evolving threats and the complexity of modern technology. However, it’s crucial to recognise that the journey towards a more secure digital environment often begins with small, manageable steps taken today.
Cybersecurity is not a one-size-fits-all solution; instead, it involves a continuous process of risk assessments, education and the implementation of best practices.
To start your journey to being a cyber secure organisation, reach out to the team at the North East Regional Organised Crime Unit (NEROCU) at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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