John O’Donoghue, Solution Consultant for the Data Centre Computer Group, Dell Technologies Ireland.
Cybersecurity is more important than ever, as hacks and attacks surge following the mass migration to remote working. Irish businesses are coming to terms with their ‘new normal’ and as many within the workforce adapts to remote working over the longer-term, organisations will become ever more vulnerable to attack.
At a time when many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Ireland are planning for an uncertain future while seeking to protect their employees, one area that businesses will need to focus on is security. Moreover, cybersecurity strategies need to be adapted at speed to the new ways of working to protect businesses. For smaller and medium businesses struggling with cash flow issues, a cyber-attack could be disastrous.
Covid-19 Cyber Realities
Since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, the volume of cyber-crime and cyber-attacks became significantly more prevalent in Ireland, while the rate of phishing attacks skyrocketed by over 600% in Europe compared to previous figures. Attackers have been exploiting the fear and uncertainty generated by the pandemic by luring users to click on a variety of links or handover personal details – or unknowingly download malware.
The increased level of risk is being acknowledged across industries – with healthcare businesses being particularly affected. The World Health Organisation reported a five-fold increase in cyber-attacks, targeting its employees as well as the general public, with scammers impersonating the organisation. It took to the media to urge extra vigilance as a result.
Meanwhile here in Ireland, An Garda Síochána has warned that the number of cyber-attacks is likely to increase further, as cybercriminals are using Covid-19 themed phishing scams and emails in an attempt to exploit vulnerabilities and fear.
SMEs are right to be concerned. Not only are they disproportionately being targeted, but they are particularly at risk from phishing attacks due to a comparative lack of cyber training and awareness. Larger businesses tend to have several in-house cybersecurity experts, enabling swift and effective responses. Speed is key when it comes to containing a breach.
Apart from a lack of awareness putting smaller businesses in Ireland at risk, the larger businesses that may rely on their goods and services also risk being exposed – creating both reputational as well as financial consequences. Cybersecurity is a collaborative effort, requiring all stakeholders to be aligned, alert and prepared to take the appropriate action in the event of an attack.
Protecting medium businesses
With high risks and high stakes, Irish SMEs will need to review and update security strategies – engaging with expert consultancy where possible for support. In order to protect businesses, data must be protected from the endpoint to the data centre, assessing each step of the chain and reviewing when the business landscape evolves. Being able to pivot in order to protect is key. Their first line of defence is their employees.
Ensuring the workforce has a good understanding of cybersecurity essentials is a key part of any strategy – along with an instant response plan. This can be achieved through regular training, workshops and testing to help businesses spot security threats. With the surge in phishing attacks, it is important that they understand the risk, the levels of deception and the consequences. Practice really does help erase complacency and keep staff on their toes.
While some SMEs may ponder why they would be targeted over a larger business, overall they seem to accept that the threat is not only real but impending, according to a recent study. However, far from being complacent, with the volume of risk being exponentially high, there is a tendency for IT decision-makers to panic – and they need to know who to turn to for clarity.
Trusted advisors with deep digital expertise should be able to share a clear security roadmap, that is surprisingly simple. Security experts at Dell Technologies Ireland help to tailor cyber strategies to businesses, providing a threat intelligence network using AI technologies, while ensuring the ecosystem of partners is covered. SMEs are not alone – but they do need to act.
As the Irish economy continues to digitise operations, supply chains, business transactions, and employee and customer services, cyberattacks are expected to continue to pose as one of the major threats. Shoring up security for medium businesses provides a critical lifeline in otherwise uncertain times.