If May’s global WannaCry ransomware cyber-attack taught us one thing, it’s that in today’s technologically-advanced business environment, no organization is immune to cyber threats—at last count, over 200,000 computers in 150 countries have been impacted by the attack.
This event not only underlines the increasing sophistication of today’s cybercriminals, but it highlights their ruthless nature. Many of the victims were health service organizations like hospitals—the attack prevented many employees from accessing their computers and, as a result, put many emergency procedures, as well as automated monitoring of in and outpatients, at risk.
Despite these unfortunate consequences, there is a lesson to be learned from all of this: even breaches of this scale can be avoided with the proper cyber framework in place. Now is as ideal a time as ever to assess your organization’s cyber vulnerabilities and strengthen your existing cyber framework to mitigate the risks—regardless of whether your organization is beginning to leverage the immense potential of Big Data, or simply switching over to a new VOIP phone system.
Unfortunately, getting C-suite buy-in to commit significant resources to this task is not always easy. Given the rapid evolution of both technology and cybercrime, many senior executive teams fail to understand the true nature of the risks facing their businesses—and, as a result, are hesitant to invest the resources necessary to protect their organizations.
To help company leadership understand the severity of the situation, therefore, it’s essential to highlight the risks a cyber breach could pose to your business objectives.
Even if your business doesn’t have 40 million credit card numbers on file—as was the case in Target’s historic cyber breach in 2013—a cyber-attack could still cause significant reputational (business interruption and financial) damage. Whether your network is flooded in a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and forced to shut down, or it becomes infected with ransomware that, in turn, shuts it down for you, time offline is money.
In addition to lost productivity, you’ll also be looking at significant brand damage—which could impact your relationship with existing and future customers, as well as suppliers. Recovery from a cyber event also comes with a hefty price tag—such as credit and insurance rating downgrades, credit protection, forensics, legal fees, not to mention the large proportion of your resources that must be allocated to non-core tasks throughout the recovery process.
In Canada—like many areas of the world—there is a strong push toward mandatory breach notification which, in turn, is driving the need for organizations to understand their business risk and demonstrate due care and diligence. Businesses are expected to understand the regulatory framework governing data protection and cybersecurity, and take active steps to mitigate cyber risk. Failure to do so—or inability to prove that you exercised a reasonable approach to protect your business from a breach happening—could result in hefty fines.
Intellectual property risk
In today’s marketplace, your intellectual property is your differentiator. Chances are, it’s also likely stored in digital form on your network—where, without proper protection, it’s vulnerable to ransomware or malware attacks. A strong cybersecurity strategy helps you identify your most critical digital assets—like intellectual property—and implement appropriate safeguards to protect them.
Every successful business has taken some risks—but they’ve also had to identify, and appropriately manage them to succeed. So while Big Data, the Internet of Things and smart devices are creating phenomenal new opportunities for businesses of all sizes, it’s important to embrace them with our eyes open. And that means implementing a cyber-savvy culture, from the top down.