July 24th, 2017
The recent NHS cyber security chaos followed by this week’s Petya ransomware attack provide vital lessons for local companies operating in the digital age. While the impact of Peyta seems to have been limited within the UK this time, ransomware attacks like the one which recently impacted the NHS are not a new occurrence in the cyber world. In 2015 almost half of NHS trusts in England were hit by ransomware, and as they are becoming increasingly seen as an easy way for cyber criminals to make money, the frequency of these attacks is expected to rise in the coming years. All companies are potential targets, and unfortunately technology alone will not protect your company from the threat unless it is married to the right company culture and vigilance when it comes to maintaining and protecting your digital assets. John Tunnah, Vice President, Lockton Belfast and expert in insuring businesses’ digital assets provides some insight on protecting your company from cybercrime…
The huge disruption experienced by the NHS as a result of its recent cyber-attack resulted from inadequate computer systems maintenance and human error and has presented some vital lessons for other UK companies when it comes to ensuring that their digital assets are properly insured. While this cyber-attack was fairly simple, it caused widespread damage and expense which could be accrued by any company using an email system if left vulnerable.
In this instance, many NHS hospitals had not updated their Windows operating system to include a recently released security patch, meaning that NHS workers unwittingly spread a malware when they opened attachments in emails. The impact was magnified because many Trusts were running outdated and unsupported Microsoft operating systems like Windows XP. The ransomware used was not particularly sophisticated – in fact, it emerged three months ago – and it wasn’t even specifically aimed at the NHS, but found vulnerabilities in the systems in place within the large network of Trusts, hospitals, and facilities.
Below are five tips that all companies with digital assets should follow to minimise the likeliness and impact of cyber-attacks in the future.
- Ensure your operating systems are supported and up to date. Apply patches as soon
as they become available (for WannaCry ransomware specifically ensure MS17-010 has been deployed). Support for Microsoft’s Windows XP ended in 2014, so companies using this operating system should upgrade immediately.
- Ensure you are using antivirus solutions. It’s debatable whether this would have stopped this particular incident, but it is good practice for preventing the spread of viruses and malware and could help to prevent similar incidents.
- Ensure you have a current back-up which is not on the same network (what IT practitioners refer to as ‘out-of-brand’). There are a number of simple cloud-based solutions available for this to ensure that an up to date backup is stored in a second location.
- Ensure staff are trained not to open suspicious emails, and – more generally – that your team is trained to understand and be vigilant against different types of cyber-attack/incident. Many successful cyber-attacks occur because of common mistakes made by employees. Ensure that any ‘remove access’ capabilities are secure and that team are not sharing files via external hard drive devices (ie: pen drives). Computers should be logged off / locked or powered down each evening to ensure that only their designated users have access, especially in public-facing workplace atmospheres.
- Evaluate your cyber insurance options. Insurance, while not designed to replace your organisation’s IT security, can assist in your risk mitigation. A specialist cyber insurance policy should pay the ransom, if deemed appropriate, and the associated costs incurred by you or the insurer’s breach response to remediate the ransomware attack.
To inquire about insuring your digital assets contact John Tunnah, Lockton Belfast, at: +44 (0) 2890 248989.