Firms struggle to keep pace with cyber attacks

Businesses are struggling to combat the rise of cyber criminality which continues to grow increasingly sophisticated, according to a major new report.

A range of constraints including aging infrastructure, poor employee habits and limited resources are hampering firms’ fight back against attackers and leaving them vulnerable to potentially seriously damaging attacks.

According to Cisco’s mid-year cybersecurity report, the struggle to constrain the time and space afforded to cybercriminals is the biggest challenge facing businesses and threatens their ability to fully embrace the digital economy.

“As organisations capitalise on new business models presented by digital transformation, security is the critical foundation. Attackers are going undetected and expanding their time to operate.

“To close attackers’ windows of opportunity, customers will require more visibility into their networks and must improve activities, like patching and retiring aging infrastructure lacking in advanced security capabilities,” Cisco security business group vice president, Marty Roesch said.

The global report identifies a number of issues in businesses’ cyber defences which have seen them struggle to keep pace with the fast-evolving threat landscape.

Cisco’s data suggests organisations are less likely to address what it refers to as “network hygiene”, or the upkeep of operating systems and programmes.

Ensuring web browsers, software such as Java and programmes like Microsoft Office are updated to the latest version could help protect Irish businesses, according to the report.

Unsupported and unpatched systems create additional opportunities for attackers to easily gain access, remain undetected and maximise the damage they can cause along with their consequent profits.

Backing up critical data and protecting employees’ individual devices in addition to those used in the office are other steps firms are advised to take.

One of the most worrying developments of 2016 is the continued rise of ransomware — a type of malware, or intrusive software, that prevents or limits users from accessing their system until a ransom is paid to attackers — which this year become the most profitable malware in history.

Cisco expects to see this trend continue with even more destructive ransomware that can spread by itself and hold entire networks, and therefore companies, hostage.

While organisations in critical industries such as healthcare have experienced a significant uptick in attacks this year, the report’s findings indicate that all markets and regions globally are being targeted. These include clubs, organisations, charities, government agencies and NGOs.

In January of this year, a number of Irish government agencies were temporarily affected by Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks.

Among the agencies affected were the departments of justice and defence, the Central Statistics Office and the Courts Service.

DDoS attacks overwhelm websites with online requests to render them unusable for a period of time but don’t usually involve more malicious activity such as data theft.


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