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The 5 Biggest Cyber Threats Facing Businesses in the North East

The top 5 Cyber Threats facing North East businesses at a glance:

  1. Ransomware Attacks
  2. Phishing Scams
  3. Insider Threats
  4. Supply Chain Attacks
  5. Advanced Persistent Threats

The North East of England has actively embraced digital technology to transform our business success (see our previous post HERE if you want to know more about this). Everything from enhanced communication to automation to advanced analytics to increased processing and productivity (to save time and efficiency), supercharges your business to generate more money and remain competitive even in the most congested of marketplaces. 

The downside of evolving business tech, however, is the emergence and growth of skilled cyber criminals and the immense damage they can do to your business if left to their own devices.   

Cybersecurity is not just a technical issue; it’s a strategic business concern that impacts every aspect of your business operations, reputation, and growth. Here, we delve into the five most pressing cyber threats that businesses in the North East must navigate to protect their assets and maintain their competitive edge.

1. Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware remains one of the most devastating cyber threats. This type of malware encrypts a victim’s files, rendering them inaccessible until a ‘ransom’ is paid. The North East, with its burgeoning tech and healthcare sectors, as well as the financial sector, is particularly vulnerable. These industries often store sensitive data that is critical for daily operations, making them prime targets.

Why It’s a Threat

Ransomware attacks can bring business operations to a standstill. The 2020 attack on Newcastle University is a case in point (read more on this HERE), where critical systems were disrupted, affecting students and staff. The financial implications are severe, with costs extending beyond ransom payments to include downtime, recovery efforts, and reputational damage.

Mitigation Strategies

Regular Backups: Maintain regular, encrypted backups of critical data.

Education and Training: Ensure employees are aware of phishing tactics too, as email is a common vector for ransomware.

Advanced Security Solutions: Implement advanced threat detection and response systems. 

Or you could simply hire an MSP (managed services provider) to take care of the potential threats before they have had a chance to rear their ugly head. Our previous post helps outline what a good MSP can do for you – you can read that HERE.  

2. Phishing Scams

Phishing remains one of the most common and effective cyber threats. These scams trick individuals into providing sensitive information, such as login credentials or financial details, by masquerading as trustworthy entities. In the North East, the prevalence of SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) with increased remote working practices and shall we say inadequate cyber security practices, and lack of staff training increases the risk of a serious data breach leading to something very damaging.

According to a recent government report:

“Half of businesses (50%) and around a third of charities (32%) report having experienced some form of cyber security breach or attack in the last 12 months. This is much higher for medium businesses (70%), large businesses (74%) and high-income charities with £500,000 or more in annual income (66%)

By far the most common type of breach or attack is phishing (84% of businesses and 83% of charities).”

Read the full report HERE

Why It’s a Threat

Phishing attacks exploit human vulnerabilities. They can lead to significant data breaches, financial loss, and unauthorised access to systems. In 2023, a phishing attack was reported on a Durham-based financial services firm ‘Swinburne, Snowball and Jackson’ which resulted in the theft of client information and substantial financial loss.

Mitigation Strategies

Employee Training: Regularly train employees to recognise phishing attempts.

Email Filtering: Use email filtering solutions to detect and block phishing emails.

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Implement MFA to add an extra layer of security.

Or, as previously mentioned: Hire the services of a reputable MSP (managed services provider)

3. Insider Threats

Insider threats come from employees or contractors who have access to your sensitive information and systems. These threats can be intentional, such as data theft for personal gain, or unintentional, such as accidental data breaches. The North East’s diverse industrial base, ranging from manufacturing to finance, means that insider threats can have widespread implications.

Why It’s a Threat

Insider threats are particularly challenging because they originate from within your organisation, where individuals ALREADY have legitimate access. The damage can be extensive, impacting intellectual property, financial information, and overall business integrity. 

Mitigation Strategies

Access Controls: Limit access to sensitive information based on role necessity.

Monitoring and Auditing: Implement robust monitoring and auditing of user activities.

Employee Screening: Conduct thorough background checks and regular reviews of employee access.

OR…

Hire a managed services provider, then you can concentrate on running your business hassle-free.

4. Supply Chain Attacks

Supply chain attacks target businesses through their third-party suppliers or service providers. In the interconnected digital ecosystem of the North East, where businesses often rely on external partners for various services, these attacks can be particularly disruptive.

Why It’s a Threat

A compromised supplier can serve as a gateway to a larger organisation, like yours.

The Cyber security breaches survey 2023 conducted by the North East Business Resilience Centre found that:

“business cybercrimes costs on average £15,300 annually per victim. The same research found that in the last 12 months, there have been approximately 2.39 million cybercrime instances and a further 49,000 of fraud. With engineering and manufacturing firms not being left untouched.”

Mitigation Strategies

Third-Party Risk Management: Evaluate the security practices of suppliers and partners.

Contractual Security Requirements: Include specific cybersecurity requirements in contracts with third parties.

Continuous Monitoring: Continuously monitor and assess the security posture of third-party partners.

Hire an effective MSP: Cyber criminals are skilled and dangerous. You need someone with at least the same level of IT skill, with your best interests at heart, to protect your business. 

5. Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)

APTs are sophisticated, prolonged attacks aimed at stealing data or surveilling activities without being detected. These threats often target high-value assets and are usually orchestrated by well-funded, skilled adversaries, including nation-states. 

Businesses in the North East, particularly those involved in critical infrastructure or sensitive research, are at risk.

Why It’s a Threat

APTs can remain undetected for long periods, causing significant data loss and intellectual property theft. They can also undermine national security and economic stability. 

Mitigation Strategies

Advanced Detection Tools: Use advanced detection tools that leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Network Segmentation: Implement network segmentation to limit the spread of an intrusion.

Incident Response Plans: Develop and regularly update incident response plans to quickly address any breaches.

Partner up with a reliable MSP and let them use their up-to-date expertise to keep your business safe from cyber-attacks. 

There we have it, the top five cyber threats that as a North East based business you should be aware of. I hope it has helped.

I hope you can now see that cyber threats are a significant concern for businesses in the North East, impacting operations, finances, and reputation. 

By understanding and addressing these five major threats—ransomware, phishing, insider threats, supply chain attacks, and advanced persistent threats— you can enhance your resilience and protect your sensitive data and finances. 

Implementing robust cybersecurity measures, fostering a culture of security awareness, and staying informed about emerging threats are crucial steps toward safeguarding the future of business in the region.

And, as we have mentioned (at least five times in this post) if you are not as tech-savvy as the cyber criminals in the North East and beyond, then please employ the services of a managed service provider. Our region has some fantastic MSPs happy to help take the stress of cyber threats off your hands so you can concentrate on running your business and generating healthy sustainable profits. 

If you’d like to know how a top North East managed services provider can help you then click HERE where one of our InfraZen team will be happy to help.

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