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PATCHING: The One Small Thing To Best Tackle Cyber Crime

by Chris Fairbairn

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

SBRC logoBusinesses and employees in Scotland are being called on to make ‘one simple change’ in their computer usage to help slash the number and impact of cyber attacks.

Patching, the act of updating computer systems to the most up-to-date version, dramatically reduces the ability of e-criminals to make damaging hacking raids such as stealing money, sharing personal information or sabotaging operations.

The message comes from the Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC), which, as the Scottish Government and Police Scotland’s business resilience delivery arm, has been tasked with delivering the cyber resilience strategy to help equip business and the public and with the tools and knowledge to combat e-crime.

SBRC Director, Mandy Haeburn-Little, said: “Updating your computer – or patching – is the one small thing everyone in Scotland could do to help in the fight against cyber crime.

“When hackers typically search for the next potential system to infiltrate they will cast a very wide net.

“If your system is, at the very least up-to-date, that will do a great deal to deter the would-be hacker from exploring weaknesses further.  Think of it in the same way as having an alarm outside your house or the previous practice of having a steering wheel lock on your car.

“We know it can be frustrating to wait 20 minutes for an upload to take place, especially when you may have an important job to do on your computer.

“But such a simple practice will go an awfully long way to protect people and  businesses from what can be very expensive or embarrassing data breaches.”

The advice from SBRC is to set your computer to automatically install updates but check on a regular basis that this has been done.

A simple check on the security area of your computer and “check for updates” will reveal your computer’s status. Updates – which are free to install – ensure that your computer has all identified vulnerabilities fixed. Many systems now also offer “malicious software removal tools” for free; downloading and running such programs is a good idea and can get rid of any exiting malware on your computer.

Detective Superintendent Steven Wilson of Police Scotland’s Specialist Crime Division, said patching, along with ensuring you install anti-virus software, have strong passwords and to avoid opening unknown attachments, can protect against a large proportion of the online threat.

He added: “These simple steps will protect individuals and businesses against the vast majority of threats on the internet. If people heed them, we all will be much safer online.”

The key advice comes as the chance to make submissions to the Scottish Government’s  A Cyber Resilience Strategy for Scotland: Safe, Secure and Prosperous Online – which seeks views from individuals and organisations,   on how Scotland can become even more resilient from cyber-attacks and crime when using online technologies – nears its August 28 deadline.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney, said: “The internet offers incredible opportunities for Scottish businesses, however no one is immune to cyber risks.

“Being digitally connected brings increased opportunities for those who seek to exploit the very same technology for criminal purposes such as threats of fraud and abuse. In using the internet in our everyday lives, we must accept this is now the norm and we all must become more resilient to such attacks.

“Last year, we gave a commitment to develop and bring forward a cyber-resilience strategy for the benefit of our people and our economy.

“Our consultation, which ends tomorrow [Friday, August 28], is gathering your views on what we can all do to become more informed and more resilient online.

“We are committed to building cyber resilience amongst our communities, our businesses and our public services.”

The consultation form can be downloaded from: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Cyber-resilience-consultation-1992.aspx

In an innovative tie-up with SBRC,  computer expert students on placement from Abertay University’s ‘Ethical Hacking and Countermeasures’ course are  providing crucial, affordable services to protect companies – particularly vulnerable small firms – from discontented or careless staff and duplicitous criminals.

The assessments can vary from a cyber footprint review which assesses what information is available online about a business and how that can be better managed, to a full cyber security test which looks to identify the risk of unauthorised intrusion from an external or internal source.

Forensic students from Glasgow Caledonian University are also assisting the SBRC develop an app for businesses which will significantly support SME’s across Scotland.

Other cyber assessments can be done to test the robustness of a business’s supply chain, assessing how secure suppliers and sub-contractors are from e-crime.

For more information on the cyber assessment services, visit www.sbrcentre.co.uk.

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Chris Fairbairn of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

Chris Fairbairn

Chris Fairbairn is a PR account manager with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood Partnership. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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