Top 5 security improvements to protect against public sector cybercrime – Open Access Government

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Sharing the experience of working with an NHS Foundation Trust, Firstserv’s Sebastian Tyc emphasises how managed services and cloud hosting are critical in the fight against public sector cybercrime

The solution to reducing public sector cybercrime lies in finding trusted experts, like Firstserv, to provide managed solutions and secure cloud hosting including disaster recovery, managed backups, and server monitoring.

Public sector cybercrime has been particularly dramatic over the last year. The digital skills gap, home working, multiple device access and a lack of cyber awareness in employees have all contributed to increased cyber risk. Due to its size, the number of systems utilised, numerous locations and the number of employees, the NHS is particularly vulnerable. In January this year, Firstserv rescued an NHS Foundation Trust after their skills gap left them defenceless.

IT skills gap puts organisations at risk

In December 2021, the Trust had a robust Intrusion Detection and Prevention System (IDS/IPS) solution installed, but it was never used. The in-house IT team lacked the skills to onboard the key infrastructure configuration.

With the system sitting dormant, the Trust was unable to identify attacks and techniques. Their employees were not knowledgeable enough to spot them.

It was a high-risk situation, as malicious traffic could go undetected leading to attacks.

Data breaches cost more than just money

The costs are threefold and often underestimated. Resolving the issue once the attack has happened is expensive. Preventative measures in the form of server monitoring and other managed solutions are more budget-friendly.

Depending on the type of breach, General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) non-compliance fines can be up to €10 million, or 2% annual global turnover – whichever is greater; or up to €20 million, or 4% annual global turnover – whichever is greater.

“Each individual cyber-attack is estimated to cost an average of between £4,200 to £19,400 and that doesn’t include potential fines for not protecting data efficiently.”

In addition to this, the reputational damage that results from a serious data breach can be crippling.

NHS Trust victim of malicious attack from cybercriminals

At the end of January, this year, the Trust suffered from a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack on its main trust server. Without the necessary knowledge and skills to protect themselves, they were powerless to stop it and contacted Firstserv for help.

The Firstserv supported solution against public sector cybercrime

The immediate corrective action taken to mitigate the attack was to increase resources on the main firewall. Once this was done, the existing IDS/IPS solution was properly configured to prevent future attacks.

Firstserv is continuing to work with the NHS Foundation Trust’s IT department to build its in-house cyber security skills and awareness. This will enable it to take a more active role in owning its own security posture, ensuring it continues to make full use of its Cloud infrastructure.

Due to its internal skills gap, the Trust is also looking to implement Firstserv’s High Availability Solution and outsource management of servers and system infrastructure to the expertise of the Firstserv team.

So, how can you mitigate the risks? Firstserv’s CEO, Sebastian, shares the Top 5 ways to fight public sector cybercrime:

1. Cloud computing continuity

Cloud security provides multiple levels of control within a network infrastructure. It gives you continuity and protection for cloud-based assets like websites and web applications. Businesses need to ensure their chosen cloud security provider provides DDoS protection, high availability, data security, and regulatory compliance.

2. Network redundancy protection

Keep your business operating without interruption as your IT security staff deals with vulnerabilities and cyberattacks. By providing multiple paths for traffic, any downtime you suffer won’t leave data vulnerable.

The issue can be isolated and resolved far more efficiently. It is essential to maintain redundancy for cybersecurity and successful compliance audits.

3. Network segmentation safety net

The digital skills gap and lack of cyber awareness among employees make them key targets for attackers. Strategies include phishing scams and malware-containing emails.

By decentralising your network and segmenting it into smaller, sub-networks you add an extra layer of protection for your organisation. Even if a hacker successfully breaks into one segment of the network, they won’t be able to access everything. The threat can be isolated and successfully removed.

4. Access management enhancements

To ensure cyber resilience, all platforms and data hosted in the cloud should have fine-tuned access restrictions. Firstserv can provide you with easy-to- configure control and tools including:

  • Tracking data access – to fully understand the behaviour and requirements of your users.
  • File sharing time-restricted access control – limiting exposure of sensitive data.
  • Multi-factor authentication – a core component of any strong identity and access management (IAM) policy.

5. Round-the-clock monitoring

No cyber security strategy can provide 100% protection which is why Firstserv offers robust 24/7 monitoring of your hardware and software. Hackers are more sophisticated with each day, and this threat can never be eliminated but a proactive monitoring solution is crucial to reduce your vulnerability.

We need a cyber-resilient public sector. If you need help to ensure your protection is good enough, email Sebastian Tyc at Firstserv on [email protected].

Sebastian Tyc is Firstserv’s Managing Director, ensuring their high availability solution is made available to all public sector organisations.

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