Cyber security must be managed and understood at all levels

By Jo Miller | 24 May 2017

As NHS systems were attacked this month, I could understand what our health colleagues were going through.

In 2015, Doncaster MBC was attacked by ransomware. The immediate priority was to invoke our cyber security incident response plan, meaning we shut down our entire system within 15 minutes. Due to our highly skilled response team quickly implementing our plans, we had fully recovered that evening, without losing any data.

Threats like these happen daily and they are becoming more sophisticated. Every business and organisation must be prepared and have the right systems and monitoring in place. Acting quickly is vital to minimise impact.

For councils and public sector organisations it is not a question of if we will be threatened by a cyber attack, but when. IT controls can help manage threats but we need to be vigilant and trained in how to stop this spreading. Cyber crime is here to stay – it generates vast sums of money for criminals with little risk or outlay.

Frequent emails go out to my staff to remind them not to open attachments if they don’t know the source and all staff are encouraged to complete training modules on cyber security.

That afternoon, back in 2015, was testing in a range of ways. We were unable to use IT systems, emails and telephone systems. Communicating during an emergency is key, but how do you communicate when we have become so reliant on email, texts and telephones?

Notice boards were put up on all floors to provide updates. Staff cleaned out their lockers, got together, discussed current work and shared ideas.

Technical controls reduce risks but will never give us 100% security, and it’s not just an IT issue. People are our weakest link and cyber criminals research social media to mine personal information.

Cyber crime is a corporate risk to be managed and understood at all levels, and that starts at the top.

People and data are our greatest enablers and our greatest assets. We must protect them both in terms of investment. None of this back office/front office distinction – they are different sides of the same coin.

We managed our attack well but we are not complacent. It may happen again and we are ready for it.

Jo Miller is chief executive of Doncaster MBC

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