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Ripple effect of ICO GDPR fines

Recent large GDPR fines against British Airways and Marriott have had a ripple effect on boards and spending plans for cyber security within UK financial firms, a data security company suggests.

A survey of business decision makers within enterprise financial firms in the UK, highlighted the Information Commission Officer’s (ICO) recent judgements, up to £183m proposed fine for BA and £99m proposed fine for Marriott, as a turning point in addressing their own cyber security. Almost one third of companies (32 per cent) referenced recent GDPR fines against British Airways and Marriott International as being the primary reason for an increase in board level involvement and/or provision for IT security spending.

Dr Guy Bunker, CTO at Clearswift, pictured, said: “It has been over a year since GDPR has been enforced and organisations were wondering if there were any teeth behind the regulations. These fines have clearly sent shockwaves into the industry and are now serving as a blueprint for how the ICO will handle cases of this nature. By giving out such large ‘intentions to fine’ notices, the ICO has delivered a message that it is not afraid to reprimand household names.

“The board is now sitting up and taking notice of GDPR compliance and the role cyber security plays in it. However, it is not just about taking notice, it is the need to invest to maximise their ability to keep the organisation safe from new threats. Revisiting their ‘defence in depth’ strategy to augment with enhanced security solutions including both the boundary and the cloud, and implementing more stringent policies is critical to securing the critical information they hold within the organisation.”

Other threats identified by respondents included supply chain (25pc), where attackers seek to damage an organisation by targeting less-secure elements in the supply network, like the 2018 NotPetya attack. Ransomware attacks (24pc), such as the infamous WannaCry in 2017, where malicious software denies access to a computer system or critical data until a ransom is paid were also on the list.

Solely at companies with over 5,000 employees, fear of ransomware was perceived to be the key reason why firms are bolstering their spending. As for spending, the majority of financial businesses would like to see an increase in cyber security investment (73pc) with almost one in five (17pc) UK firms surveyed reporting that their budgets stood ‘well below the adequate level’. This figure fell (to 5pc) when looking at firms with over 5,000 employees, a possible sign that larger firms have already made additional investment to deal with the ever-changing cyber threatscape.

When asked where their organisation currently focuses its cyber security investment, Data Loss Prevention (DLP) technology was a primary area for over half (53pc) of UK financial businesses, followed by Database security (42pc), Regulatory Compliance (40pc) and Advanced Threat Protection (40pc).

Bunker said: “Increasing investment in the latest data loss prevention solutions will help mitigate inadvertent and malicious data loss risks. Furthermore, with GDPR, organisations need to be aware that receiving unauthorised data can also cause issues. Organisations need to better understand how information flows through the organisation in order to tailor security solutions around how the business operates. In doing so, it will highlight where the biggest risks are and how the most cost-effective solutions can be deployed to increase protection and prevent a hefty fine.”


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