Bike survey highlights cyber risk to city businesses

Computer experts have been getting on their bikes to test the cyber security risks facing businesses in Peterborough

The survey involved cycling around city business parks testing wifi network security and the findings were predictably alarming with almost 70 per cent of the networks tested vulnerable to attack – thus increasing the risk of data breaches for hundreds of businesses.

The survey was carried out by city-based Kamarin Computers in association with global IT security specialists SOPHOS.  Similar exercises have been carried out globally including London, San Francisco and Amsterdam – all with alarming results.

The survey method – often referred to as Wifi WarBiking – is a method of legal surveillance.  Experts cycled around the area with a rucksack of technology, collecting information about publicly accessible wifi hotspots and testing encryption technologies.  It demonstrated that 67% of the areas surveyed could be prone to hacking.

The 2014 Information Security Breaches Survey from the UK government and Price Waterhouse Coopers found that almost nine out of ten large companies had experienced some form of security breach.  They can be costly and potentially catastrophic to businesses.

High profile security breaches like the dating website Ashley Madison led to divorces, suicides, financial ruin and sackings.  But there are endless examples of data breaches involving local authorities, banks and lenders, individuals, businesses and even government security systems.

Some hackers have accessed business data because of slack IT security and encrypted it – then blackmailed business owners to pay up to restore the data to their systems.

As technology moves on more and more devices are linked – thus increasing the opportunities for unscrupulous hackers to find a way into data.  The Internet of Things is the network of linked devices.  It is predicted that by the end of the year 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide, up 30 per cent from 2015, reaching 20.8 billion by 2020.  Even fridges can be linked and therefore hacked via modern smarthome technology.

In 2015, cybercrime and IT related security breaches cost the UK economy an estimated £27 billion – an increase of around 50% in one year!

“It really isn’t a case of ‘if’ our IT security is breached but ‘when’,” said George Smith, managing director of Kamarin Computers.

The government is investing £1.9 billion in cyber security over the next five years.  They are seeking to establish a National Cyber Security Centre this autumn to deal with the problem.

“We are just keen to shine a light on the challenges facing businesses and to encourage them to make their systems as secure as possible given the proliferaton of criminal hacking,” added George Smith.

Five ways to improve your IT security

1. Back up your files regularly and keep a recent backup off-site. 
Don’t put off your backups, it may be ‘another job’ however, backups can be a lifesaver. Backups can protect your data against more than just ransomware: theft, fire, accidental deletion, flooding, you name it, a backup will save it (most the time). Make sure you encrypt the backed up data so only you can restore it.

2. Don’t enable macros. 
A lot of ransomware is distributed in Office documents that trick users into enabling macros. Microsoft has just released a new tool within Office 2016 that can limit the functionality of macros by preventing you from enabling them on documents downloaded from the internet.

3. Be very careful about opening unsolicited attachments. 
Most Windows ransomware in recent months has been embedded in documents distributed as email attachments.

4. Train and retrain employees in your business. 
Your users can be your weakest link if you don’t train them how to avoid booby-trapped documents and malicious emails.

5. Segment the company network. 
Separate functional areas with a firewall, e.g., the client and server networks, so systems and services can only be accessed if necessary.

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