SWCRC warns against ransomware threat

By Ben Carey on 21 June, 2021

The Cyber Resilience Centre for the South West (SWCRC) is urging the travel and tourism sector to increase its cyber security vigilance as attacks on businesses continue to rise.

The region has been enjoying a buoyant first few weeks since the tourism trade reopened and during July and August visitors are set to bring £3.5 billion into the local economy.

However, a recent keynote speech from National Cyber Security Centre CEO Lindy Cameron detailed the growing ferocity of ransomware attacks – the number one cyber threat in the UK.

Superintendent Mark Moore, Director of the SWCRC, is raising awareness of the impact this type of breach could have on businesses which operate without basic cyber security.

He said, “The headlines are regularly awash with how criminals are launching attacks, which according to a Government report causes more than £8,000 of damage on average. However, it’s not always reported that many of the victims are actually small businesses on the high street.”

A ransomware attack is characterised by the user or business no longer being able to access the system and files they need. To get the access back, the attacker will often demand a ransom payment and if a business fails to pay up, the data will be stolen or deleted.

Figures from Action Fraud’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) state almost 190 extortion threats were reported in the South West of England between 1st June 2020 and 1st June 2021, with losses of more than £353K.

Mark Moore added, “This could happen to a family-run travel company or the local B&B, which hold huge amounts of sensitive customer data. This is an incredibly stressful situation to be in, not to mention the aftermath and ripple effect in terms of reputational damage.

“There is a very real chance that a small business simply won’t survive that kind of cyber-attack particularly when travel and tourism has already been severely affected by the pandemic. It paints a sobering picture of why having a simple yet effective defence plan in place is so important.

“The purpose of the SWCRC is to relieve some of the pressures business owners and leaders across Avon, Somerset, Devon, Cornwall, Dorset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire may be facing when it comes to understanding the purpose of cyber safeguarding and implementing best practice measures.

“We appreciate that cyber security is a concept that quite a significant percentage of the business community may feel is not applicable to them due to size of the organisation or length of trading time, but this assumption makes them the ideal target for criminals.

“Complacency with cyber security is a very real downfall, so we encourage businesses to reach out to the SWCRC for guidance in the right direction.”

The SWCRC is a police-led, not-for-profit organisation which helps SMEs to build and improve cyber resilience, with accessible support and guidance available through its free core membership packages.

Businesses can find out more information about the centre and how to get involved at the SWRC website.