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Strengthening cyber resilience on the road to recovery

  •  Written by Jason Ward, Vice-President and Managing Director of Dell Technologies Ireland and Northern Ireland.

    Not a matter of “if”, but “when”: it is never too late to start protecting businesses in Northern Ireland from a cyber-attack.

    With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Northern Ireland last year, many businesses, large and small, embraced technology at an unprecedented speed. From enabling much of the population to work from home to transforming business models, we now live and work in a truly digital economy and society.

    This has resulted in data becoming the lifeblood of organisations within both the public and private sectors. Data plays an ever more important role in helping doctors to treat patients and ensuring businesses stay ahead of the changing needs of consumers.

    But with this increasing dependence comes new cyber threats. There has been a threefold increase in the number of cyber-attacks in the last 18 to 24 months alone. Such attacks now occur globally every 11 seconds with 48% of breaches involve small businesses.

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    Leaders in every sector have become concerned at the evolving risks they face. With 72% of organisations in the UK having fast-tracked digital transformation as a result of the pandemic and 7 in 10 Irish businesses intent on using technology to grow and scape in the coming months, the stakes could not be higher. Their business resilience is now directly tied to their cyber resilience.

    The impact of cyber attacks

    Cyber risks are obviously something front of mind for everyone right now given the attacks witnessed in a range of sectors in Ireland, including most prominently in healthcare. Further afield, organisations in the US have been impacted by disruptive cyberattacks, many of which have gone undetected for months.

    The nature of these attacks show how cybercrime has evolved. Some forms of malware can now sit undetected in your operations for months and only become apparent when one small problem emerges that leads to the bigger issue. In 2020 the average time it took to identify a breach was 228 days.

    Proliferation of data

    Now is the time for organisations in Northern Ireland to take action to strengthen their cyber resilience.

    The amount of data that businesses are protecting is set to explode with the Internet of Things and the advent of 5G. Today with 4G, there can be up to 5,000 connected devices per square mile. 5G mobile broadband supports a far higher number of devices in any given area – an estimated 2.5m connected devices per square mile.

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    Organisations can no longer simply focus on just protecting individual IT systems or devices – they need to assess their ability of their entire business to withstand and recover from a cyber-attack.

    Protecting your business from attack

    But how can organisations in Northern Ireland best protect their most valuable asset – their data?

    In the first place, every business must understand what its DNA is – that’s the critical 10-15% of data and mission critical business applications that must be protected at all costs.

    The next step is to explore a more resilient infrastructure than solely back-up environments to protect an organisation’s data. This process can be simplified and made more effective by services that enable organisations to move business critical data into an isolated air gap environment and lock it down in less than five steps.

    This is what we call a cyber-vault. This provides the ultimate protection for businesses critical information.

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    In the event of an attack, this data will help businesses to recover. A true logical air gap needs to be inaccessible and offline, not just in a different location. Otherwise, it can still be compromised by bad actors. Under this model, a firm’s data is online for an hour every few days at most.

    From speaking with business leaders, it is clear that many struggle to differentiate cyber protection and data protection as well as data back-up versus recovery. Our team at Dell Technologies have been helping companies across the region to navigate this uncertainty by developing and scaling cyber recovery programmes and capabilities that meet the needs of an ever-changing cyber landscape.

    Building back better

    Northern Ireland has taken a number of important steps towards monitoring and containing the threat of cyber threats with the opening of the Northern Ireland Cyber Security Centre last year.

    This, coupled with an educated talent pool, has made Northern Ireland a global cyber security hub, with specialist university research centres, innovative start-ups delivering global cyber security solutions. It is important however, that authorities continue to enhance capabilities and resources in this space given the growing number of businesses that are becoming dependent on digital technology. 

    With the Cyber Security Strategic Framework expiring this year, Northern Ireland is in a position to reaffirm its role as a cyber security hub and promote a security-first approach to digital transformation. By doing so, we can ensure businesses in Northern Ireland maintain trust in emerging technology as public and private sector organisations unlock their potential in order to build back a more inclusive economy and society.

    Highlighting the dangers of cyberattacks and leveraging the extensive expertise that exists on this topic will ensure that businesses and organisations are educated and better prepared. It will also allow us to focus on our post-pandemic recovery in less danger of being delayed in our attempts to “build back better” by cyber criminals. 

    For, as the number of recent high-profile attacks across the world illustrate, it is no longer a matter of “if”, it is only a matter of “when”.

    About the author

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