Himanshu Potlia

20% of UK Firms Were Hacked in 2016

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According to a report by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), hackers attacked 20% of British businesses last year, many of which didn’t have even the most basic security measures. Less than 1/4 of firms confirmed they had security in place to prevent hacking. It was also revealed that larger companies with more than 100 employees were more susceptible to hacking: 42% of large companies were targeted and only 18% of small ones.

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The report presented findings of the survey of 1,200 companies, which was conducted following a series of hacking attacks on company databases, including those grabbing news headlines: at Yahoo, TalkTalk and Ashley Madison. For instance, back in 2016, Yahoo discovered that hackers had compromised email addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, passwords and even encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers from more than 1bn user accounts, which made the hack the largest breach of such a type ever.

The BCC explained that cyber-attacks jeopardize companies’ finances, confidence and reputation. In many cases, victims of the hack report not just monetary losses, but also damages resulting from disruption to their business and productivity. According to the survey, most companies relied on IT providers to resolve problems after the breach (63%), as opposed to 12% of financial institutions and 2% of police and law enforcement agencies (these usually have in-house expertise).

The UK watchdog reminded businesses that they must remember about the extension to data protection regulation coming into force in 2018, which will expand their responsibilities and requirements to protect personal data. In other words, companies that fail to adopt appropriate protections may face tough penalties. For instance, TalkTalk was fined £400,000 for security failings that led to the data leak in October 2015. The Information Commissioner’s Office claimed that the breach could have been prevented if the company had taken basic steps to protect customers’ information. At the time, hackers stole the personal data of more than 150,000 TalkTalk subscribers, including sensitive financial data for more than 15,000 people.

The BCC believes that more guidance from government and police about where and how to report hacking attacks would help minimize the occurrence of cybercrime.

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