Cyber crime

OPINION: Beware, there is a fraudster about - Tim Jones

Tim Jones

We have known for some time that cyber crime is a huge issue. It is easy to assume that this only impacts big companies, think again, however.

It is now clear that cyber criminals are attacking all levels of businesses, from our biggest companies to our smallest. Trying to keep ahead of them is becoming increasingly difficult. These are sophisticated gangs. A number of them are state sponsored. Look no further than North Korea and Russia to see who the main culprits are. Also, much of the Eastern European criminal activity and mafia groups still rely upon cyber crime as their main source of funding.

A recent survey across the Country now shows us how extensive this is. At least two thirds of British companies have been targeted by fraudsters in the past two years, with cyber attacks being the most common crime.

These figures have dramatically increased in a very short space of time. They are up at least 10% over the figures for last year. Some significant financial data has recent been released illustrating starkly what the costs of this activity mean to our bigger corporations. For them, the average costs range from £800,000 to nearly £4 million. For small and micro business, the costs average around £35,000.

Huge costs are being expended by every type of company to give them greater security and protection. The evidence is clear that many of the problems stem from carelessness, such as, employees leaving computers running or not following internal procedures when they open emails.

A far greater area of vulnerability is from those businesses who are either part of the supply chain or of the customer base. The door has opened a lot wider during Covid. Online activity is a golden opportunity for these criminals and however good the internal systems might be, both the suppliers and customers are now proving to be the weakest links is cyber defences.

The number of cyber security experts who can assist is increasing dramatically. Many of these have robust lines of defence. They have stronger and better design systems that can provide an umbrella.  They also link these with forensic technologies and backup audit checks to detect suspicious activity before serious damage can be incurred.

It is interesting that cyber crime is our major threat. A few years ago, we would also have been concerned about bribery and corruption. In fact, although these areas of activity are still common place, the recorded incidents are reducing.

Here again, this is down to better security procedures and often whistle blowers. One of the big problems is that many cyber crime attacks are not reported for many reasons, including those of reputation. It is also clear that the cost of getting adequate insurance is now (inevitably) rising rapidly with astronomical premium payments being required. It would be a brave gamble, however, not to have some form of insurance protection in place.

The South West is very well equipped to deal with the support of businesses in coping with these challenges. The South West Cyber Resilience Centre is a huge resource.

The need for daily vigilance on this subject should now be one of the highest priorities for all of our businesses. This is an agenda which needs to be shared with all members of staff and those outside the business with whom you engage.

Northern Devon has a great fighting spirit when these sorts of challenges are encountered. Working collaboratively on this would be another way in which these criminals can be defeated.