Malicious software demands your attention

The pace, scale and sophistication of cyber threats is increasing. The consequences are worryingly real for all businesses.

Cyber security is a problem no longer confined to the technology department but one shared from the board down. This is particularly true as cyber issues demand the attention of their victims.

Ransomware is an increasingly common and worrying computer infection - not only because it locks access to devices, important files or networks from the rightful owners while demanding ransom (usually in BitCoin) for its release - but because increasingly, even after payment, files are not reinstated.

"Being held for ransom to unlock a computer after malicious software locks files is but one of the many threats we see in cyberspace.” - Lynwen Connick 

According to the Telstra Cyber Security Report 2017, 60 per cent of Australian businesses experienced a ransomware incident last year. Of these incidents, 57 per cent paid the ransom - but at least one third of those did not recover the impacted files.

The recent high-profile infection of ransomware ‘WannaCry’ (‘WannaCrypt’ in some circles) in over 100 countries unsurprisingly made headline news. A notable feature of this attack and why it spread so quickly was once it was in a network it spread across systems.

Ransomware attacks often impact individuals or small and medium businesses which may be less prepared to defend against such an attack - particularly businesses which haven’t been able to patch and back up their systems.

Being held to ransom to unlock a computer after malicious software locks files is but one of the many threats we see in cyberspace. Attackers range from individual hackers, criminals and malicious insiders through to sophisticated criminal gangs and nation states.

Protection

Increasingly attackers are using vulnerabilities in computer systems and software to gain access to private information or to commit fraud. A range of measures can help protect yourself and your businesses online.

Ensuring operating systems and application software are regularly updated and computers are regularly backed up are key steps to protect from cyberattacks.

It is easy to overlook the importance of such routine cyber 'hygiene' measures but these are among the most important things we can do to stay secure online.

Keeping antivirus software up to date is another important hygiene measure.  These measures are simple, convenient and not overly costly.

Malicious software such as ransomware is often downloaded via malicious emails, so being cautious before opening attachments or links on any suspicious email is another way to help prevent being infected. 

Top tips in the fight against ransomware and other cyber threats

• Back up your data (off site, not connected, or you run the risk of having that infected also)

• Keep your key systems and software up to date including operating systems, browsers, applications

• Acquire & maintain up to date security software (even freeware offerings are good value – just keep yourself up to date!)

• Be wary of emails from unknown senders or where contact is out of context (they wouldn’t usually contact you via work email) or the email is simply unusual (blank with only a link/attachment)

These measures apply as much at home as at work. Enabling automatic updates and having an automatic backup system is vital for protection against many cybersecurity threats.

For businesses, recent cyber events are also a reminder of the importance of testing protection, detection and incident response processes.

The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) 2016 threat report highlights the range of cyber threats organisations are facing and the Australian Signals Directorate’s Essential Eight strategies is a great list of things to focus on to protect our systems and information from these threats. The Stay Smart online site also provides very useful advice. 

What is ANZ doing?

ANZ has comprehensive security capabilities that protect the bank’s systems and information from cyber threats. The bank also works actively with industry partners, government and law enforcement to manage these threats.

As cyber threats evolve, the need to collaborate, innovate and educate staff and customers is increasing.

In addition to staff education, ANZ has launched a customer trust and cyber enablement program including the delivery of customer Cyber Toolkits. These Toolkits embed customer cyber education and resources into every day conversations and processes in a meaningful and proactive way.

ANZ has also made available a free six-month trial of antivirus software for retail customers to download and provides advice to customers on how to protect themselves online. 

An important component of increasing our ability to withstand cyber threats is improving security across the ecosystem. Taking an immunological approach to cyber security (a bit like vaccinating children to reduce the likelihood of outbreak of disease) will ensure we are all better prepared.

There are plenty of examples of large companies who fall victim to attacks because of poor security in those they connect to. A key way to stop this is sharing cyber threat information and appropriate responses.

At ANZ we work with customers, partners and across the community to raise awareness, develop skills and share responses to cyber threats.

Lynwen Connick is Chief Information Security Officer at ANZ and formerly led the review of Australia's cyber security, delivering the new National Cyber Security Strategy for the Prime Minister. 

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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