By Jude McCorry

RESILIENCE is something that has truly been tested over the last two years. Be it the impact on business or people planning, the challenges have, at times, felt all-encompassing.

However, now is not the time for complacency, because while many have fought tooth and nail since the pandemic hit, opportunistic cyber criminals have been focused on taking advantage of the vulnerability of the business community and possible weaknesses in their cyber defences.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) recently published its annual report, finding that for the 12 months from September 2020 – August 2021, it handled more cyber incidents than ever – 777 to be exact (up from 723 the previous year). While this is cause for alarm, we must learn from these figures to ensure we don’t see the 2022 data highlighting a further increase.

It is considered that cyber crime will cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. Consequently, being clear on the strength of your cyber resilience plan and making sure the wider team have an awareness of the steps that must be taken should an incident occur is crucial. Reviewing, updating and rehearsing the plan is a must – as you would a fire drill. It is only by testing the robustness of such a plan that it will be possible to identify if individuals and processes are up to the mark to perform during a high-pressure cyber incident.

The good news is that while the end of the year is in sight, there is still time to dust down any such plans you already have in place to ensure they are robust and ready to perform. With the Christmas period a time when there is a reduced staff – many working remotely – as well as "discount" emails disguised as legitimate, should cyber awareness be low, we could see individuals being tricked into clinking on a malicious link and compromising their company network. Given the ransomware attack on SEPA last Christmas Eve, we must maximise the final working weeks of the year to ensure businesses are cyber-secure and prepared. Therefore, not taking a proactive approach to cyber resilience is not an option.

Once your plan is solid, consideration must turn to people to assess if they are knowledgeable and confident to perform during an attack. If the answer is no, it is important to upskill them – whether this is the board or those tasked with overseeing the IT resilience of the organisation. Calling upon online resources, training programmes and workshops is a must in upholding the cyber resilience of a business. Organisations like the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and NCSC can direct organisations to resources, as can the Scottish Business Resilience Centre.

But all of this means nothing if your systems are lacking. Addressing any technical or procedural loopholes that were identified during the planning phase is a must; it’s not just about being aware of how a cyber criminal might break into your systems, but about ensuring you have done everything to prevent it from occurring.

Acting now will almost certainly ensure your cyber resilience is up to scratch and will (hopefully) mitigate any potential financial or reputational damage. Being ready for the new year with this refreshed mindset will set the tone in how you perform over the next 12 months… and perhaps even beyond.

Jude McCorry is Chair, CyberScotland Partnership