What can a cyber security consultant do for your business?
The need for companies to protect themselves from cyber attacks has never been more urgent. Data breaches are becoming more frequent and more damaging. The online world is growing much faster than most organisations can keep pace with, which inevitable leads to weaknesses and vulnerabilities in online systems.
The complexity of the attacks is staggering, and it’s not just governments that are suffering. Businesses are taking financial hits worth millions of pounds – there are estimates that the global cost to business is over £1 trillion.
There are so many parties invested in breaching secure IT environments: Activists, organised crime groups, competitors, disgruntled employees and foreign governments are all using complex technology to hit specific targets. The consequences can range from missing data, system lockouts and competitive advantage being lost.
Hiring a competent cyber security consultancy can help alleviate these concerns. Having a dedicated consultant or team committed to staying ahead of the attackers can reduce both risk and costs. EC-MSP can offer you a free basic IT security checkup to help you get started with cyber security for your business. Alternatively, if you are in need of a specialist in a particular area, take a look at our list of cyber security companies in London.
Let’s talk about what skills are needed from a consultant, what they can do for your company, and why it’s important.
What skills and experience does your cyber security consultant need?
The field of cyber security is a diverse one. As discussed above, there is a lot more to cyber security than the simple provision of IT support. For example, you may simply need to engage an information security consultant, or if your situation is more involved, even a computer forensics investigator or penetration tester. Don’t be deterred if those titles don’t mean anything to you: the important thing when engaging an IT security services provider is to seek out a person or company with proven experience and the following skill sets. They need to have:
- The ability to identify emergent trends in data sets
- Have a strong grasp of corporate confidentiality obligations
- Be keenly interested in IT support and maintain up to date awareness of the digital security environment
- Have excellent and adaptive communication skills that can be tailored to various audiences
Beyond these basic requirements, any cyber security company you work with should also be able to help you get certified for the government Cyber Essentials scheme. This is a government-backed scheme to help organisations protect themselves against common cyber attacks.
If your business is not certified under this scheme, you are at risk of violating the upcoming GDPR legislation and getting into trouble with Government regulators (more on this to follow…)
Therefore, it stands to reason that the IT security consultancy you hire should at least have the Cyber Essentials qualification themselves so that they are able to confidently guide you through compliance process. EC-MSP is fully qualified under the Cyber Essentials scheme and you can see more details of our certification here.
While your business will get certified by one of the accredited third-party companies under the Cyber Essentials scheme, a good cybesecurity company will help you to get everything in place beforehand to ensure the greatest chance of success.
What is the role of a cyber security consultant within a business?
IT security services are critical to protecting a modern company’s interests, and there are a number of ways a
cyber security consultant can benefit a business.
Broadly speaking, cyber security includes risk management, information assurance and securing critical technology. It seeks to defend against electronic and web-based attacks. These attacks are often very difficult to detect due to the highly advanced techniques that are being developed constantly across the globe. Attacks can be directed at anyone, from state governments to organisations and individuals, so do not make the mistake of assuming your company is not at risk due to its small size.
Cyber security experts can also take on an educational role within a business. The most secure systems will count for very little if individual staff members are careless with security practices. A single error related to sharing sensitive data in an email or using an unauthorized portable device on a company computer can be enough to create an open portal for hackers. These errors can be reduced through training and establishing a culture of security with all staff. In fact, the four most common weak points for data security breaches are systems, networks, mobile devices and human error.
Lastly, IT security consultants are specialists in cyber security, and should have their own dedicated role. They will be much more up to date on potential security risks than other IT generalists, so it would be a mistake to appoint an underqualified existing team member to this important role. Cyber security consultants are typically very aware of the approaches attackers can take and plan to mitigate those threats. They are creative and seek to build defenses for threats that may not even be established (yet). Often these experts are involved with every staff contact point for company data. This can include devices, applications, data storage and internal networks. Having an in depth understanding of how staff interact digitally gives these experts great opportunities to identify potential weaknesses and plan for how to protect against them.
Why cyber security is becoming such an important business function
As the global economy becomes more and more connected, the risks for businesses multiply. The problem is that frequently these connections multiply at a faster rate than the work required to secure them. Companies are beginning to realise the true state of their vulnerability, but most are slow to address it. Up to 90% of companies across the world recognise that they are not sufficiently prepared to protect their digital assets.
This is woeful, and it is showing up as an incredible blight on company bottom lines. Cybercrime is costing the businesses more than £350 billion per year globally, according to a report released by Lloyds in 2015. A Forbes article in 2016 predicted that such is the growth in cybercrime, the figure would reach £1.5 trillion by 2019.
A recent study shows that attacks are becoming more common. Beaming’s study, which was conducted by researchers at Opinium, indicates that 2.9 million UK firms suffered cyber security breaches in 2017. The total cost of these attacks in the UK is estimated at £29.1 billion. The breaches and consequences vary, from blatant industrial espionage to theft of cash, data and identities, to system lockouts (leading to ransom demands for access).
There are two general categories of cyber attack.
Data security breaches
These involve theft of sensitive business information (think trade secrets, information relating to bids or mergers, intellectual property and personal data). This data can be used to cripple deals, expose sensitive information or instigate extortion attempts. Data security breaches can be difficult to detect as often information is copied but not removed from the digital environment. Once an access point is established, it may be months or years before it is discovered, leading to vulnerabilities on an almost unimaginable scale.
Sabotage efforts are more blatant and can be more obviously damaging to a corpora
te brand. These actions can involve
denial of service attacks, deletion or corruption of critical data, or disabling of infrastructure. The most common sabotage efforts involve compromising employee records, confidential data and interfering with or stealing customer records.
The consequences of these attacks are not limited to financial losses alone. Depending on the nature of the breach, companies may be exposed to negligence claims or regulatory action. Disabling attacks may inhibit the ability of the company to meet contractual commitments. A loss of trust between the company and customers can cost untold amounts in lost sales and contracts.
The most common consequences for affected businesses are
- Brand/reputation compromised
- Intellectual property theft
- Financial loss
- Legal exposure/lawsuits
- Loss of shareholder value
- Fraud and
As mentioned above, in the UK, The GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, goes into effect on May 25, 2018. This new set of standards replaces the Data Protection Act and has been developed to protect an individual’s personally identifiable information (PII), including a range of online identifiers. The new regulations are far more detailed than those previously in place.
Part of the regulations include protection but also reporting of identified breaches. While it may not seem to be in a company’s interest to disclose security weaknesses, reporting breaches helps governments to strengthen security overall and may assist in inter-country policing operations, as well as alerting other companies to newly identified threats.
As governments begin to establish regulations and consequences for compliance failures, companies are facing up to another layer of complexity. The global economy requires a lot of companies to be operating across national borders. A security expert can be invaluable here to assist in navigating the various requirements for each country of operation. In addition, different industries may face additional regulations, as can be seen in the European Union.
To summarise, a company must now consider the threats from globally-based attackers, and institute policies and protocols that satisfy requirements from each country of operation and in response to industry specific guidelines. This complexity alone should be enough to convince anyone of the necessity of having an IT security consultant on board.
Why clients will want to know if you have good cyber security practices
There is an increasing level of awareness among consumers about the security of their personal data. It’s becoming well-known that data can be bought and sold, and there is a growing feeling of alarm related to this. There is an excellent opportunity here for companies to communicate to customers, suppliers and other companies you work with that data security is a priority. Registering for the Cyber Essentials Scheme is one such you can achieve this.
Despite the move toward higher government regulations related to reporting of security breaches, most cybercrime still goes unreported. In particular, financial losses are rarely disclosed. The reason most crimes involving a financial loss go unreported is because businesses worry that consumer confidence and their commercial reputation will take a long time to recover from this kind of news story. It can also be off-putting for companies to report cybercrimes as they can take a long time to ‘close the case,’ which can lead to an ongoing drain on resources while the investigation is ongoing.
If most companies are generally reluctant to discuss information security practices and breaches, it offers an opportunity for yours to use this as a competitive differentiator. If your company can communicate to stakeholders that information on cyber security is a key focus, they are far more likely to trust their data to you. Given that over two thirds of customers lack confidence about their supplier’s online security protocols, there is huge room in the market to get ahead. As awareness in this area grows, some clients are starting to add data-handling clauses to contracts. Companies that fail to have policies involving these practices stand to miss out on contracts or slow down lucrative deals.
How cyber security consultants can save you
Hopefully it’s now clear that the world of cyber security is vast and vital. Protecting your digital assets is not a one-off task – it must be managed on a regular basis. Depending on the size and complexity of the company, there may be a number of areas that need to be addressed. It may seem like an additional expense to implement an IT security strategy, but in reality it can save a company thousands or even millions of pounds in avoided breaches. Here are some ways that a cyber security consultant can save your company money.
Protect against devastating financial loss
The most obvious way a cyber security consultant can save you money is from preventing attacks that can result in potentially devastating losses. In October 2015 UK communications firm TalkTalk suffered a cyber-attack after weaknesses in their system were published online by a 17-year-old boy. The weaknesses allowed hackers to target the TalkTalk website more than 114,000 times and steal the personal data of nearly 160,000 people. TalkTalk said the fallout from the cyber attack cost them in the region £42 million.
Reduce risk and associated insurance premiums
If the identifiable risks associated with cyber security can be reduced, insurance premiums will also decrease. This simple conclusion alone should be enough to show that hiring a cyber security consultant is a wise idea. It is also prudent to have an accurate view of the risks, as underinsurance can leave a business in a vulnerable position. For example, it is no use having £50 million in cyber risk insurance only for a breach to cost you £150 million, and it has already been seen that many firms are underinsured against cyber-attacks in both the US and the UK.
Conduct audits and backups
As mentioned above, having an accurate understanding of the cyber security risk your company faces can reduce insurance premiums. Audits can be a source of opportunity and should be viewed as such. Traffic bottlenecks and other performance-related issues may be identified, along with potential security weaknesses. Simple changes can lead to an increase in productivity and profitability. Having frequent backups of company data will help protect against the costly interruption of business services due to malicious corruption or theft.
Hiring a cyber security consultant or company
Committing to a cyber security strategy can be a large task and it can be difficult to know where to begin. If the business is not large enough to support a full-time expert, hiring a consultant may be a cost-effective option. They are often far cheaper than full-time staff and offer competitive services due to the demands of the market. It is also worth considering consultants can be hired on a per-project basis from firms such as EC-MSP. Our consultants can be hired for tasks such as an audit or security review. These have the benefit of having clear objectives and no ongoing costs. There are also benefits to hiring security consultants on a regular basis for ongoing tasks. Even if there are established cyber security staff on the payroll, it may be beneficial to engage consultants to work on stand-alone projects. Again, this is something EC-MSP can offer to your business.
Hiring a company with extensive cyber security experience usually happens in tandem with offsite data hosting and storage. Remote monitoring and analysis can be extremely beneficial. Experts in this field are skilled in identifying anomalies, monitoring traffic and taking action to avert or disrupt a cyber security breach. This monitoring can be conducted 24/7.
Companies can also be hired on an as-needed basis to provide training and on-site support to employees. If a single security consultant has not been hired to provide oversight and create policy, a company team like ours at EC-MSP can help you do this.
How to become a cybersecurity consultant
As a cybersecurity consultant, you have a lot of responsibility to ensure that your client’s cybersecurity is up to scratch. There is more to being a cyber security consultant than understanding the latest antivirus software and encryption systems. You also must have an in-depth understanding of different systems, as your clients will not all have the same cybersecurity requirements.
Consultants can work on a freelance basis or for an agency. However, before working on a consultancy level, you need to have extensive experience in IT security systems and data protection. Most positions at cybersecurity companies will also require you to have an undergraduate degree in computer science and an interest in all things IT. Your degree will need to be in software engineering, information security or a similar field for you to get a job in the cybersecurity sector.
You will also need to have industry experience before you can practise as a consultant. Consultants are considered to be experts in their fields and are trusted by other organisations to suggest and implement the best systems for their businesses. For this reason, cyber security consultants are often required to have experience working as a junior member of an IT team and working their way up. At the same time, they gain experience in the sector.
Consultants can also choose to specialise in specific areas of cybersecurity, which they can adapt to suit the niches or industries that interest them the most. A professional cybersecurity organisation will have consultants who work across different sectors and will assign you a consultant who has the most relevant experience for your application.
It’s vital to have business assets protected from criminal interests. At a time when people are dedicated to breaking into IT systems for profit and malicious intent, there is no excuse for leaving a company and its shareholders vulnerable to attack. Engaging the right supplier of IT security services can reduce risk, costs and increase customer confidence. You need to take action soon – the bad guys already are.
EC-MSP is one of the most trusted IT support and cyber security consultancies in London. If you would like more help, advice and support on your cyber security policies or have other business IT support needs, contact us today to see how we can help.
We can also offer you a free basic IT security checkup to help you get started.