Financial Data
Updated 27 Sep 2020


Everything you need to know about cyber crime

Consumer cybercrime costs the global economy up to USD 113 billion every year. This is something you need to prepare for, or risk the costly consequences. 


Nicole Crampton, 17 August 2017  Share  0 comments  Print


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Consider one of your dozens, hundreds, thousands of employees opens an email attachment and suddenly your entire business goes down. This is the reality facing numerous businesses around the world that are being targeted by ransomware. There’s no way you can control every single attachment, from the multitudes of emails that all your employees receive on a daily basis. But there are cyber security strategies you can implement to keep your business and your staff safe from cyber-attacks.

In May, a global cyber attach affected more than 200 000 businesses in 150 countries across the world. The “WannaCry” ransomware used a flaw in Microsoft’s software, to spread rapidly across networks locking businesses out of their own files and servers.

If you think your business is too small or too big to be targeted or fall ill to cybercrime, you may want to think again. Consider that 12 people are victims every second and that 378 million people were victims to one or more cybercrimes last year alone, according to Instant Checkmate reports. Can you really afford to keep your business unprotected and not have any cyber security strategies in place?

How does ransomware work? 

This cyber-attack involves hackers taking control of a computer systems and blocking access to it until a ransom is paid. Ransomware has become a rising trend amongst hackers looking for a pay-out. 

For a cybercriminal to shut down your servers and files they first need access to your system. They achieve this by sending one of your employee’s malicious software, once the person clicks on the link or download it introduces the malware into your network. It’s often delivered via emails which trick the recipient into opening attachments and releasing malware onto their system in a technique known as phishing.

Related: Cyber-crime could cost SA business millions

Once the malware in on your staff members’ computer the hackers can launch an attack that locks all files it can find within your network. This can be a gradual process with files being encrypted one at a time.  Large organisations with sophisticated security systems are able to detect this and isolate documents to minimise damage.   

Phishing explained

Online -piracy -and -cyber -crime

Phishing is the practice of sending out emails that look to be from a well-known source, such as a bank or utility provider. Clicking on any of the links or downloading any attachments to the email will take you to a fraudulent site that will gather the users’ login details, then it installs malware on your device.

Spear phishing is when the hackers create a more targeted version of phishing. This will have emails addressed to you by name and may even appear to come from someone in a senior position within your organization. Another possibility is that it could come in the form of your email provider warning you to change your password.

56% of people fall for a spear phishing email and click on the links they are sent, according to a 2016 study

“Ransomware can come in via email attachments that looked legitimate to the users who received them. The malware could be hidden in an Excel spreadsheet or docx file, and the only clue that the mail was suspicious would come from analysing the sender address,” said Paul Williams, major account manager at Fortinet about two recent attacks in South Africa.

Take Note: There are also alternative ways to contract malware, such as:Downloading a bad programme or app, and visiting a website that is displaying malicious adverts can also infect your device.

Ransomware cases

In the UK, the National Health Service was the worst hit by ransomware. Hospitals and GP surgeries in England and Scotland were among the 16 health service organisations hit by the attack by malware called Wanna Decryptor in March 2017.

Staff were forced to revert to pen and paper and use their own mobiles after the attack shut down key systems, including telephones. Hospitals and doctors’ surgeries in parts of England were forced to turn patients away, as the cyber-attack scrambled data on computers. 

Why do businesses need cyber security?

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If you think only large businesses and organisations are being targeted, one out of five small businesses experience cyber-attacks each year, according to The National Cyber Security Alliance. Even worse than this, 60% of those hit go out of business within six months after the cyber warfare. In majority of cases the potential consequences of a cyber-crime are immense and can paralyse a small business. 

Related: The cost of cybercrime rockets

In the past, big corporations like JPMorgan, Sony and Target have been victims of serious data breaches resulting from cyber-crimes, while small businesses have attracted less attention. But, this doesn’t mean your small to medium sized business isn’t targeted. Here are a few reasons why you need to start taking cyber security seriously: 

1. Cyber-attacks exist 

The biggest mistake you can make is to assume that your small-to medium sized enterprise (SME), won’t be targeted, this makes you an easy target. 60% of cyber-attacks target SME’s, according to a Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report. Hackers are aware that your SME lacks the resources, experience or policies to keep your information safe.

85% of small business owners surveyed admitted that they believe large enterprises were more targeted than they were, according to a KPMG survey. This explains why SME’s continue to under support its cyber security. However, cyber criminals don’t discriminate and have no priority targets. They attack any weak security system, whether the business is large or small.

“We’ve recently witnessed a major surge in ransomware attacks as an unprecedented number of organisations have approached us to help them secure their servers and networks against malware,” says Grant Chapman, Camsoft Solutions, data security and CRM provider.

“There are still many companies out there with inadequate or no protection against malware and many of them are generally ignorant of the consequences. This, together with a general naivety that it might never happen to them, is going to result in many unfortunate organisations having to pay the price in more ways than just the money,” he warns. 

Ransomware cases 

In 2013, there was a breach of Target’s cyber security exposing and over 40 million consumer debit and credit card information along with other personal records. The cyber-attack cost Target around USD105 million and is a testimony of the harm a cybercrime can cause a business.

2. Every business has information hackers want

While smaller businesses have less risks than larger businesses, 7.4% of small business owners have been victims of fraud, according to the Council of Better Business Bureaus. This is because small businesses hold customer and employee information with less sophisticated security, making them prime targets. 

The type of information hackers look for range from online banking credentials to ID numbers. Since these cyber criminals are motivated by cash, business banking information need solid cyber security. Before choosing a business bank account, you’ll need to ensure you’ve taken all precautionary measures before settling on a suitable choice. 

Standard Bank not only has state-of-the-art cyber security, but also runs regular awareness campaigns and what to look out for and hot to avoid phishing attacks. It has even gone as far as establishing a graduate programme specifically focused on cyber security to counteract the shortage of cyber security skills in the global market.

Ransomware cases

In case you thought small businesses weren’t effected by cyber-attacks. A couple running a Cheltenham hairdressing salon paid GBP1 600 worth of bitcoins for the return of data after a ransomware attack in June 2016.

As a result of the attack, the salon owners couldn’t access their electronic diary to check clients’ bookings or their contact details, which had been built up over 12 years. The hackers brought the salon to a standstill, and the owners estimated that the attack had cost the business thousands of pounds in lost bookings.

Related: Avoid cybercrime this festive season

3. Cyber criminals never take a break 

3.5 new threats occur every second, according to Trend Micro’s research findings. Highlighting the increasing need for your business to be vigilant towards your cyber security. 

Trend Micros’ report also revealed two factors causing this rapid increase:

  1. There are plenty of SME’s and they present a vulnerable market to exploit.
  2. Larger organisations have enhanced their cyber security deterring hackers and forcing them to look for smaller less protected targets. 

You’ll need to increase and enforce your internal security rules. All your employees need to by on the lookout for suspicious internet activity and prepare for an emergency plan in case of a cyber-attack.

Ransomware cases 

Bournemouth University, which hosts a cybersecurity centre, revealed that it had been hit 21 times in the last 12 months. It confirms the attacks and stated: “it’s not uncommon for universities to be the target of cybersecurity attacks; there are security processes in place at Bournemouth University to deal with these types of incident.”

4. The real cost on non-compliance

The cost of compliance for some multinational organisations can be as much as USD3.5 million, though this is still less when compared to cost of noncompliance. Just like larger companies, SME’s also deal with people, technologies and processes, all of which can be targeted by a cyber-attack. This is why you must comply with data protection regulations to protect both you, your employees and your customers from cybercrime. 

The POPI Act covers much the same elements as the General Data Protection Regulation and both come into force in 2018. But there will be more you need to do in order to also comply with General Data Protection Regulation, which covers the data landscape in Europe.

For more information on the POPI Act and the penalties you could incur visit here.

For more information on the differences and similarities between the POPI Act and the General Data Protection Regulation visit here. 

Ransomware cases 

A number of influential news websites have seen adverts hijacked by a malicious campaign that attempts to install “ransomware” on users’ computers, according to a warning from security researchers Malwarebytes.

The attack, which was targeted at US users, hit websites including the New York Times, the BBC, AOL and the NFL. Combined, the targeted sites have traffic in the billions of visitors. The malware infected user devices through multiple ad networks, and used a number of vulnerabilities, including a recently-patched flaw in Microsoft’s former Flash competitor Silverlight.

Related: Protecting the transport industry from cyber crime

5. Hackers are also moving to the cloud 

The overall cloud market for SME’s, today, is valued at over USD100 billion, making it a valuable to cyber criminals. In addition, 74% of SME’s are planning to increase their expenditure on cloud-based software, increasing the risk to cyber-attacks and infection by a ransom virus.

With the continuous development and advances in cloud technology, it’s only right that you spend enough on cyber security to protect not only your business, but also your staff and your clients.

The number of threats that cyber criminals unleash continue to rise, and all business run the risk of losing data, sales, productivity and profits. From large to small, any organisation can be a target, it’s vital to take all the necessary steps to improve your cyber security and protect your business’ information, technologies and processes. 

Ransomware cases 

Telecommunications company, Telefonica, was one of the targets of cybercrime in Spain, thought it said the attack was limited to some computers on an internal network and had not affected clients or services. Portugal Telecom and Telefonica Argentina both say they were also targeted by cyber-attacks. 

How does cyber security work? 

Cyber -crime -coding

Within the last year, cyber-attacks have become a part a serious threat for every person and organisation. No matter the size of the company, the looming threat of hackers trying to steal information is real.

With the increase frequency of cybercrime and data breaches, the failure to have a plan of counterattack for your business is no longer an option. You need to be prepared and responsible with it comes to protecting your business, employees and clients from hackers. Here are a few tips on how to improve your cyber security:

Know your business’ vulnerabilities

You need a well-rounded understanding on the internal and external vulnerabilities to properly protect your business. The best way is to keep up-to-date with the newest cyber fraud schemes and threats. 

What not to do

"Clients want to know if what they are spending on information security is equivalent to others in their industry, geography and size of business to evaluate whether they are practicing due diligence in security and related programmes," said Rob McMillan, research director at Gartner.

"But comparisons to generic industry averages don't tell you much about your state of security. You could be spending at the same level as your peer group, but you could be spending on the wrong things and be vulnerable. Alternatively, you may be spending appropriately but have a different risk appetite from your peers," he said.

The majority of organisations will continue to misuse average IT security spending figures as a proxy for assessing security posture through 2020, says Gartner.

Related: Why the construction industry needs cyber risk cover

Ensure your data is encrypted

Today’s hackers are hunting for unencrypted information that is left vulnerable and unprotected. If your business is holding vital information, you need to take steps to have this information encrypted. Keep your data safe by using full-disk encryption tools, which come standard with most operating systems. 

Using this feature does require some attention from you, since the encryption will only activate when a login is not used. This means that a hacker can go after your network if one of the machines is logged in and exposed to malware. So, to ensure the effectiveness of your cyber security set your devices to automatically logout after a set time without use.

Is your hardware secure? 

Not all cyber-attacks come through links and downloads. Majority of cyber warfare occurs when physical electronic equipment is stolen, but this is often overlooked. To ensure no one walks off with vast amounts of your data ensure your systems are physically locked down.

Increase your cyber security by ensuring your server room doors are closed and locked, to make the grab and go process for criminals even more difficult. Invest in cloud computing software that allows you to track down your laptops, devices and even desktops and a recovery measure.

Cyber security needs to be part of your company culture 

You can’t be the only one following cyber security protocol to keep your business’ and customers’ data in safe hands. Your entire company needs to be aware of the strategies and techniques you’ve employed to keep your business safe. Your team needs to also be aware of how they can put the company at risk.

Instruct your workers to always keep their eyes open for potential threats and be aware of how to keep data safe and secure. Introduce a cyber security strategy including what sites can be visited and which apps are allowed on business devices. 

How not to handle the aftermath of a cyber attack 

Those affected by cyber-attacks will not only be large corporations, although they usually try and keep knowledge of an attack a secret, knowing what the reputation damage and other consequence could be. “However, when these organisations report that they are wiping clean all their servers and computers and reinstalling all their software from scratch it’s fairly obvious what has transpired,” says Chapman. 

Companies that didn’t keep off-site backups have had to resort to reinstalling databases and mail servers that are just over a year old. Additionally, others businesses who left backup devices connected to their servers at the time of the attack have had all their current back-ups encrypted as well. 

“Regaining access to infected files by paying the ransom is also risky because the malware is still resident on the infected machines and can very easily be re-activated for yet another ransom demand,” adds Chapman. 

What you should be doing in the aftermath of ransomware

Here’s some advice from Andy Patel, one of the security experts at F-Secure: “If your organisation has been hit by crypto-ransomware, stop, take a breath, and respond to the incident in a level-headed manner.

You’re going to want to start by isolating and remediating affected machines before restoring data from backups and ensure that you have the right protection on your network to prevent it happening again. Make sure you don’t restore the original infection vector during that process. And when your systems are back up and running, remember to kick off a root cause analysis.

Learn from the experience and improve your processes and systems in order to avoid future infections, keeping your data security software updated regularly. The more prepared your organisation is for the eventuality of a crypto-ransomware attack, the less likely you’ll end up panicking and doing something that could be more damaging.”

For a step-by-step guide on improving your cyber security visit F-Secures eBook here.

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About the author


Nicole Crampton


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