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Aussie Government urges business to take action against cyber threats

21 Apr 2016

Australian businesses have a long way to go when it comes to cyber security, and in order to encourage companies to take action, the Government has launched a new cyber strategy.

Australian companies are seriously lagging behind their US and UK counterparts when it comes to cyber security, and their lack of education and an unwillingness to properly deal with cyber threats could result in them becoming ‘low-hanging fruit’ for cyber criminals, according to Deloitte.

The Australian Government’s new Cyber Security Strategy is an attempt to highlight the lack of action companies are taking to protect themselves and ‘help Australia grow by embracing disruptive technologies from a secure footing’.  

Although many of the initiatives are voluntary, Liam Rowland, head of incident response and forensics APJ at Dell SecureWorks, believes failing to take action could end up destroying a business. 

“The Government Security Strategy tells us something with certainty, the Australian Government is getting very serious about cyber security, meaning organisations operating in Australia are going to need to follow suit,” explains Rowland. 

“Regardless of whether it’s the perspective government or the growing requirements on the private sector, Australia’s attitude to security, as a whole, is evolving. It is critical anyone that operates in Australia evolves with it,” he says. 

Rowland believes if Australian businesses do not take cyber security seriously now, they could not only be in for a shock when their systems are compromised but also be on the receiving end of a rather large fine, with the Government looking to pass Australia’s Privacy Amendment (Notification of Serious Data Breaches) Bill 2015.

“The worst time to realise you are not prepared for a cyber-security incident is when a breach occurs. Security incidents are crisis situations that place a great deal of pressure on IT staff.

“Nearly every day the media report on organisations, companies and nation states that are dealing with information security breaches. From the smallest companies to the largest conglomerates, organisations around the world are attacked every second of every day and many do not have an incident response plan in place,” says Rowland.

“With the new cyber security strategy and breach notification regulations coming into place in Australia, organisations will now have to be transparent around breaches. This means people will be asking more questions about why their data wasn’t secured to the degree to prevent a breach should one occur.

“If the cause is because the business didn’t have an incident response plan in place, not only will they be fined under the new regulations and have to report it to their stakeholders but also may face customer backlash and resentment around the loss of their personal data,” he says. 

According to research conducted by Australian Cyber Security Centre, 43% of major Australian businesses did not report cyber incidents to anyone in 2015, and with more focus on detecting and notifying the relevant stakeholders of any breaches, these incidents will no longer be able to be kept secret. 

While identifying and understanding the short- and long-term costs is important, Rowland says the real key is preparedness. 

“Estimating what a breach might cost today can help a company better develop a plan for the day when an event does occur. Determining potential losses can highlight key areas of opportunity for enhancing security strategy, focusing budget and resources on the right vulnerabilities, and preparing the company to respond quickly and resolve a breach more effectively,” he says.

To avoid becoming the next big headline, as well as the significant losses associated with a breach, Rowland can provide vital tips for organisations on reducing and mitigating the overall impact of a breach, including: 

  • Most importantly; don’t wait, take action now
  • Understanding the costs of a breach to your organisation
  • Plan from a consequence approach - Identifying a hierarchy of consequences based on breach scenarios can focus resources and potential investments in people, process and technology.
  • Establish an incident response team and develop a comprehensive incident response plan. Test the plan frequently
  • Engage a third party as part of the incident response plan - Third-party security responders should have the capabilities to plan for, detect, identify, and extricate cyber threats from the environment, and they should provide the necessary cyber forensics to assess damage and aid recovery
  • Train your employees - Security awareness training can become your first line of defence to prevent the initial intrusion vector of many breaches
  • Insure your organisation and make sure it’s got you covered - Purchasing cyber insurance is a good best practice for decreasing some costs of a breach, and can help lower the cost per compromised record
  • Get leadership involved - Studies show that involving the board of directors in security decisions has a direct dollar correlation to decreasing the cost of a breach
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