How to strengthen your cyber security in times of uncertainty

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) advises UK firms to ramp up cyber defences following Russia’s attack on Ukraine

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is warning UK businesses to “bolster their online defences” as they expect a new wave of cyber crime to sweep across the country.

It’s now even more important that business owners work with their IT departments to review their cyber security strategy. It needs to be robust to prevent hackers from gaining access to their IT systems and subsequently their data and assets. These cyber attacks are expected to be incredibly sophisticated, like with the recent Cyclops Blink malware.

It’s not all doom and gloom, there are some quick wins that the NCSC recommend to increase resilience against cyberattacks, that of course we advocate. You can read their full advice here but in the meantime we’ve outlined the main points below:

1. Implement passphrases
Guessing a password is the first and easiest way a cyber criminal can gain access into a business network. It is therefore crucial that your team use complex, strong passphrases (rather than passwords). See the NCSC’s password guidance: Three Random Words.

2. Enable MFA across your business
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a vital layer of security for your first line of defence that must be implemented for every team member – particularly for those with privileged or administrative access. It can prevent a hacker from gaining access even if they have successfully guessed your password. Please ensure MFA is properly configured so that you will be alerted to any log in attempts on your account.

3. Apply patches and security updates
Unpatched software is an invitation to cyber criminals to step inside your network, it is such an easy way inside. To prevent this happening you need to make sure all the latest patches and security updates have been applied to desktops, laptops, firmware, business systems and all internet-facing services.

4. Increase your teams phishing awareness
A high percentage of cyber attacks begin with a phishing email, which are becoming more and more sophisticated. Your team need to be aware of the red flags to look out for and what to do if they spot something or have clicked a malicious link. Time is of the essence and immediate action needs to be taken in such an event. Please read our white paper: Phishing – The Red Flags, for more information.

5. Ensure antivirus and firewalls are active and functioning
It’s important to make sure your antivirus software and firewalls are active and fully functioning on every device, as they can help detect malware and suspicious links before they create irreversible problems.

6. Backup your network – and regularly test backups
Please test your backups to make sure they are working correctly, and make regular backups and store them offline, to ensure business continuity if the worst happens and a piece of malware wipes your data out.

7. Review third-party access to your network
Understand what type of access and privilege third party organisations have to your network. Remove any access that is no longer required. Also be mindful of the security practices they employ because if they suffer a breach, it could impact the rest of the supply chain your business is part of.

8. Draw up an incident response plan
Make sure you have an offline written plan in place to guide your team in the event of a cyber attack. Ensure escalation routes and contact details are correct both in and out of hours.

9. Brief the wider organisation about cyber threats
Educate all your team as to the importance of cyber security and communicate the location and contents of your incident response plan. As stated by the NCSC: “Make sure everyone knows how to report suspected security events and why reporting during a period of heightened threat is so important.”

Please speak with our cyber experts (01282 500770) if you need any cyber security help or advice, or if you have any related concerns.