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Reducing exposure

A recently published European Cybersecurity Index revealed that the UK is the eighth worst in Europe for cyber safety. Using a range of data, it seems that, while the UK ranked the highest for commitment to cybersecurity, we scored low in other areas and had the greatest exposure to cyber threats, writes Hayley Kershaw for AdvanceFirst Technologies, a specialist EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) software company in the UK.

The UK typically scores well on cybersecurity rankings, and this change leaves businesses wondering if they need to implement measures to protect themselves from cyber-attacks. What changes do organisations need to make, and can they take from the best countries in Europe for cybersecurity?

Commitment isn’t enough

In the European Cybersecurity Index, the UK placed the highest on its commitment to cybersecurity with a score of 0.931. This data, which came from the ITU Global Cybersecurity Index, shows that the UK is the most committed to tackling cybersecurity threats out of the 24 countries included in the European Index. The problem is, having a commitment to cybersecurity isn’t enough. Out of the 24 countries on the index, the UK placed 17th overall, making us the eighth worst for cybersecurity. We scored the lowest according to Rapid 7’s National Exposure Index, where a low number demonstrates a higher risk of exposure.

While typically the UK scores highly on cybersecurity rankings, the recent placement on the European Cybersecurity Index shows that we need to take greater steps to protect our cyber safety. What lessons can we learn from the placement of other countries on the list?

What steps can businesses take to improve their cybersecurity?

Avoiding malicious software and social media hacking

Portugal sits at the top of the list as the most cyber safe region in Europe. One of the notable takeaways from their ranking is the number of people in the country who have fallen victim to malicious software, as well as social media hacking. Their numbers are the lowest out of the 24 countries listed. The data suggests that Portuguese residents take an active role in their own online security. They aren’t as likely to fall victim to malicious software, implying that they are more critical online.

One of the benefits of social media is that many are implementing additional security measures to keep your profile information secure. Steps such as dual-factor authentication can prevent unauthorised log-ins. As Portugal reports the lowest number of hacked social media accounts, it seems that residents are implementing these measures to protect themselves.

The lesson here is that businesses should be making these measures a part of everyday operations. While authenticating log-ins can delay logging on, it is a vital step to keep information safe and secure.

Eliminating the risk of fraud

In second place is Lithuania. They report the fourth highest commitment to cybersecurity, but it seems that they are taking steps to keep digital information safe. They are joint first (with Portugal) for the low number of victims of identity theft in the last three years.

Identify theft can occur when fraudsters obtain key information about your identity, such as your name, date of birth, and address. This can happen in a number of ways, though one of the most common is through phishing emails. Businesses can take steps to raise awareness of phishing emails and how to deal with them. Teaching staff vital cybersecurity measures is key to not only keep their identities safe but also keep your business secure.

Reducing exposure

In third place on the European Cybersecurity Index is Slovakia. It has a relatively low number of exposures to cyber threats, which is a key area businesses will want to focus on. A number of businesses will find that their IT teams have a huge number of areas to work with. The high number of potential threats can often mean that their efforts are more spread out than they’d like, increasing exposure and limiting speedy responses.

For some, the solution is to outsource some areas of operation. An example is Electronic Data Interchange. Most businesses do not have EDI experts in place, which can make it challenging to utilise the software correctly and ensure that cyber threats are reduced. By outsourcing to trusted businesses, it enables your team to focus on other areas of operation and prevents them from being too spread out.

Decentralising cybersecurity and vulnerabilities in this way can help to keep organisations safe when it is conducted correctly. IT teams can work on the parts of the operation that cannot be outsourced, while trusted business partners are responsible for smaller areas. Should an area be vulnerable and attacked, the separation will mean that the rest of your business isn’t at risk.

Demonstrating a commitment to cybersecurity

The UK may have ranked the highest for commitment to cybersecurity, but this means nothing if we do not take the steps necessary to support this claim. Businesses can do this by implementing thorough cybersecurity training for all employees, including the CEO. An email warning not to click any links in suspicious emails isn’t enough. They need greater awareness and a critical eye. Providing cybersecurity software for all devices, including home computers for any businesses operating in a remote working or hybrid environment, can act as the frontline defence, while staff report any other vulnerabilities they encounter. This is the most effective way to keep data and businesses secure.

The UK encounters the most exposure to cyber threats in Europe, and so effectively training staff on how to protect themselves and the business is vital.


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