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6 Dec 2022

COOs beware – the operational disruption of a cyber breach

You’ll read a lot about the cost of a cyber attack. The cost of repair or the ransom paid, plus possible fines from the ICO. But when we surveyed 124 executives, their biggest issue was disruption to operations after an attack. Cost was in fourth place.

Our survey results make sense. Cyber insurance is now commonplace, and advances in security technology (see securyXDR) mean repair, remediation or restoration can be fast and within budget. So cost is less of an issue. Indeed, only 11% of tech execs stated it was their primary concern. Operational disruption was the key problem.

Side note: check if your insurance covers you for cyber attacks and what protection you need in place before they pay out.

However, although post-attack remedies are improving, even a 2-hour loss of access to your systems can be painful. Imagine not being able to serve customers for 2 hours or staff not being able to complete projects for the same amount of time.

Will it happen to you?

Highly likely. According to the UK Govt. Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2022, 39% of UK businesses were subject to at least one cyber attack they knew about in 2022*. Of these, the most common (83%) was a phishing attack, where innocuous-looking communications dupe staff into taking action. Of these, the most common (83%) was a phishing attack, where innocuous-looking communications dupe staff into taking action. Often they click an email link that allows malicious access to sensitive data and/or financial instruments.

The remainder were more sophisticated attacks, such as denial of service, malware, or ransomware attack. This is where the perpetrators block regular business activity and demand funds to allow the target business to continue trading or prevent malicious use of their (and customers’) sensitive data.

Due to reputational damage, many such attacks go unreported unless customer data is compromised, so the figures are probably much higher.

So what are the operational implications?

Over 35% of companies that took part in the UK Govt. survey experienced some form of operational impact. That included making provision for tighter security, diverting staff from other tasks, repair and recovery costs.

There was also loss of goods or services, reputation, revenue or share value, customer complaints and compensation, fines, legal fees and direct payment of ransom.

For businesses that report a material outcome, nearly 40% took over 24hrs to recover, and 8% took up to a week.

Boards are waking up to the operational damage caused by a cyber breach; just over half of businesses (54%) have acted in the past year to identify risks from cyber security attacks and to put precautions in place.

The benefits of outsourced cybersecurity

Small (58%), medium (55%), and large (60%) businesses outsource their IT and cyber security to an external supplier. It’s a growing phenomenon, especially for lean teams stretched on cyber security. They cite access to more significant expertise, resources, and cyber security standards. In addition, there are two significant factors at play worldwide…

The security landscape is changing daily
It is almost impossible for smaller IT departments to maintain the skillsets necessary to keep pace with the increase in organised cybercrime and the proliferation of malicious viruses. Many businesses have to divert staff from other tasks or increase the workload of existing employees. This compromises operational efficiencies, especially if a breach occurs.

Most respected MSPs will have the expertise, bandwidth, diversity of skills and up-to-date anti-virus solutions and patches to protect your operations. They should be able to respond quickly and appropriately in the face of an attack or a breach – 24/7/365. So your key employees can get on with more productive projects that benefit your core business.

Staff attraction and retention
There is a shortage of skilled IT staff, especially cyber skills. Staff churn, illness, holidays, and maternity/paternity leave; these affect staffing levels in all businesses, particularly in smaller organisations with limited numbers of key, experienced staff.

With increasing reliance on IT resources for day-to-day business, any negative change in IT staffing or an unexpected surge in activity (In response to upgrades, licensing, compliance, regulation changes – and cyber attack) can be catastrophic.

Working with a larger MSP will help you manage busy periods and planned and unplanned spikes in activity. You can be confident that the right people, with the right experience, will always be on hand to maintain your IT infrastructure, update your defences and respond to threats appropriately, without damaging your operational efficiency.

Before you recruit new IT personnel, upgrade your IT infrastructure, or make organisational changes, consider how outsourcing your IT to a reputable MSP might help you maintain your operational efficiency. They can provide the end-to-end protection you need to maximise your business potential and avoid operational disruption.

*Figures sourced from Gov.UK Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2022

Graham Smith

By Graham Smith