Businesses throughout the UK are currently struggling against an increasing amount of hackers and digital crimes that have the potential to destroy an entire company. Over the last two years there has been cyber attacks on 36% of firms globally, however, in the UK 55% of firms have been attacked. Cybercrime is growing faster than any other area of fraud, and has increased 44% in the last two years when it made up 20% of the UK’s economic crime.
This information has all come from a recent report from accountancy company PwC which states that the UK is one of the biggest targets for this type of crime, mainly targeting financial organisations. It went on to say that the main reason for the increase in attacks is due to the increased use of cloud-based systems which companies are using to backup and store data. The report also identified that a third of companies currently have no strategy in place to defend themselves from these attacks and that awareness has to be raised.
Fortunately the risk of cyber attacks to the public has recently been considerably reduced as a result of corporate initiatives following high-profile security breaches at telecoms provider TalkTalk, adultery website Ashley Madison, and electronics company Sony. However the risk to companies and their customers is still significant as explained by PwC’s global corporate intelligence expert, Mark Anderson:
“Hackers are now more ambitious than ever. Their aim goes beyond targeting financial information to include a company’s ‘crown jewels’ – customer data and intellectual property information – the loss of which can bring down an entire business. The threat of cybercrime is now a board-level risk issue, but not enough UK companies treat it that way.”
The chief executive of security and intelligence firm Falanx, John Blamire has warned that events such as these were just the start of the cyber attack terror. “The volume of attacks can be a strain on resources, but the types of threats are continually evolving too.” He also warned that companies in the UK aren’t doing enough to develop a team of staff members equipped to deal with online fraud and other forms of cyber-attack. “We need more skilled people to help defend organisations from cybercrime and training is a massive part of that. Organisations need to get their houses in order and have response plans in place.”
However, while PwC’s highest concern in the report was the rise of technology in fraud, it also warned companies of another issue known as ‘Silver Fraudsters’, older staff members who steal from their company. The report described the act as a “strong shift towards more senior and experienced employees carrying out corporate fraud”. It went on to say that half of the instances of company fraud were committed by staff members who were over the age of 40, while the proportion carried out by staff over the age of 50 has gone from 6% to 18% over the last two years.
According to PwC, the attack of the Silver Fraudsters has the greatest impact because they have access to more sensitive information and are subject to less oversight, meaning wrongdoing is harder to detect and prevent. PwC’s head of ethics and compliance, Tracy Groves, said that companies should try their best to improve their security but also “reward, recognise and empower” people to stave off the temptation to commit fraud.
In light of the increasing problem the government has pledged to spend £860m on a national cybersecurity programme to help companies be better prepared for cyber attacks and online fraud. In addition to this, former defence secretary Liam Fox has called for legislation to make it a legal requirement for firms to report cyber-attacks immediately after they happen.
On the plus side, there has been a surge in recruitment for data scientists who can devise and implement strategies to combat this growing threat.