Problems regarding cybersecurity have been evident for several years now. However, 2017 was the real breakout year in terms of high profile attacks. Equifax, one of the largest credit reporting agencies, were targeted in July, leading to the personal data of 145 million people being stolen. In April, there were the leaked government tools, which were made accessible after a hack, whilst an Amazon breach meant that almost 200 million voter records were left exposed online. Moreover, there was of course, the NHS crisis, which left hospital computers around the country asking users to send money before they could access patient files, arriving as a consequence of a major cyber attack. There are too many to mention. In spite of this, it is possible to repel an attempted attack, even if the evidence may suggest otherwise.

The ‘accidental hero’ who halted a ransomware attack.

An example of how it can be possible to halt a cyber attack came when a researcher was able to repel the ransomware attack that had targeted major organisations last year, including the NHS. The individual, a 22-year-old from south-west England, identified the malware behind the attacks, and activated a ‘kill switch’ in the software. He managed to do this by registering a garbled domain name hidden in the malware, preventing it from spreading any further than it had already. Despite this being an extremely high profile case, which required those with expert knowledge, it did prove that cyber attacks can be stopped. Even better of course, is to repel an attack before it has even begun, and there are ways you can attempt to achieve this.

Focus on improving resilience, rather than reactions.

One of the key mindsets a business should adopt is to focus their attention on improving resilience to potential cyber attacks, as opposed to how they will react to one. Much of the advice provided centres around how a business should respond to a cyber breach, but there is little about how to prevent them from happening in the first place. The place to start in this respect is to identify and gain an understanding about which assets are most at risk. This is important in establishing the investment that is going to be dedicated to ensuring cyber safety. Once the knowledge is acquired, budgets can be determined, in accordance to which areas are most at risk.

Develop a plan, set targets, and invest!

Once the processes most at risk have been identified, a plan should be put together on how the business is going to ensure that any attempted breach is made more difficult. An effective plan can significantly reduce the vulnerability of a business, but the necessary investment is needed in order to achieve this. For this to take place, senior management will be required, using their authority to prioritise spending in this area. Furthermore, once the plan has been actioned, relevant and achievable targets should be set to ensure that everyone involved remains engaged with cyber safety.

Awareness will need to be maintained on a daily basis, but if it means reducing the chances of being hit with an attack, it will all be worth it. Just ask those who have been breached.