Cyber Security Matters and TalkTalk

October 29, 2015

It’s been a busy few weeks on the Cyber Security front. Paul Holborow, Head of RMT Technology looks back at the Cyber Security Seminar held at RMT in 15 October and at the recent events surrounding TalkTalk.

One of the reasons we decided to hold the Cyber Security Matters event at RMT was to discuss whether news stories of large scale security hacks resonated with SME’s in the North East of England. There is evidence of security breaches occurring in the small business community and from surveys conducted by PWC and BIS, it does seem that the incidents are getting more frequent and that the impact on businesses in terms of reputational damage and in the cost of dealing with them is growing each year.

We also discussed how data breaches can happen and how data is valuable to criminals. For many of the attendees, holding sensitive personal data is a very real responsibility, and the thought that it could be misused for criminal purposes became apparent. Hacking is committed by various types of individual, many of whom see small and medium sized businesses as easy targets as they have easier defences and data worth stealing. The realisation that this risk is fast becoming as normal to business and say ensuring the locks on the doors work began to hit home.

Up until now, I think for many, the news stories of large scale hacks hadn’t seemed to come to anything. The CarPhone Warehouse data loss incident earlier this year made the headlines at Company level, but very few stories of individuals being targeted and losing out emerged. So last weeks incident at TalkTalk, where 4 million customer account details were accessed, and with some reports of individuals losing money to criminals exploiting the hack, will have brought it home in a very real and personal way. No doubt TalkTalk will contest liability for customers duped by fraudsters in to transferring money to accounts held by criminals, but an investigation by the Information Commissioner awaits them none the less.

An interesting point to come out of the TalkTalk incident is whether data breaches are becoming the new norm, and that it’s how well companies deal with an incident and with their customers that are really important to minimising the damage and retaining customers. Once the hack became known, customers began to reveal attempts to access bank accounts had been made after the CarPhone warehouse incident, which happened on TalkTalk’s’ servers. Another issue raised is that of the investigators. Now Cyber Crime is included in the national Crime Statistics, how effective will the police be at investigating and prosecuting criminals?

One lesson we can all learn from both what’s happening to SME’s and to us as individuals is that we will all have to start to take our own on-line security much more seriously – whether we are in business or in our own lives. Whilst we can and should expect corporations to take adequate security measures, I think we also know that security can never be 100% effective, so we must all do that we can to protect ourselves. Just as we don’t leave the house with the key still in the lock, so we must protect our own on-line activity, be vigilant, monitor on-line activity and take responsibility for our own on-line health.

For more information please contact Paul Holborow on 0191 256 9500


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