Cyber space has revolutionised how many of us live and work. Now more than ever before companies need to protect key information assets or risk having their reputations damaged and customer trust eroded.
Over the summer the Government –or more specifically the Information Security Arm of GCHQ, launched a new scheme – Cyber Essentials to provide all sizes of business with clarity on good basic cyber security practice. It’s as the name on the tin suggests – basic essentials – appropriate for your business.
CEOs need to ask themselves some fundamental questions. Such as:
· How confident are we that our company’s most important information is being properly managed and is safe from cyber threats?
· Do we have a clear and accurate picture of the impact on our company’s reputation, share price or existence if sensitive internal or customer information were to be lost or stolen?
· Do we have a view on who might be targeting our company and do we encourage our technical staff to help identify emerging threats?
· Have we identified our key information assets and assessed their vulnerability to attack?
· Is cyber risk on the risk register – or do we even have a risk register?
· Do we have a written information security policy which is championed by us (the board) and supported by regular staff training that we are confident the entire workforce understands and follows?
The answers will determine the level of risk appetite in the company and whether the board is serious about the security of its customer data. If there is the appetite then potentially companies should consider applying for the Cyber Essentials standard.
There are 2 levels to the scheme – Cyber Essentials which only requires an organisation to complete a self-assessment questionnaire with responses independently reviewed by an external certifying body and Cyber Essentials Plus where tests of the systems are carried out by an external certifying body, using a range of tools and techniques.
Organisations that have been successfully independently assessed or tested through the scheme’s assurance framework will attain a Cyber Essentials certification badge.
In brief the scheme defines a set of controls which, when properly implemented, will provide organisations with basic protection from the most prevalent forms of threats coming from the Internet. In particular, it focuses on threats which require low levels of attacker skill, and which are widely available online.
Risk management is the fundamental starting point for organisations to take action to protect their information. For those companies who already have the DMA’s DataSeal or ISO27001 most of the requirements are already covered. In brief the scheme focuses on Internet-originated attacks against an organisation’s IT system.
Cyber Essentials concentrates on five key controls. These are:
1. Boundary firewalls and internet gateways - these are devices designed to prevent unauthorised access to or from private networks, but good setup of these devices either in hardware or software form is important for them to be fully effective.
2. Secure configuration – ensuring that systems are configured in the most secure way for the needs of the organisation
3. Access control – Ensuring only those who should have access to systems to have access and at the appropriate level.
4. Malware protection – ensuring that virus and malware protection is installed and is it up to date
5. Patch management – ensuring the latest supported version of applications is used and all the necessary patches supplied by the vendor been applied.
The self assessment questionnaire is available on the link below.
Costs for the Cyber Essentials assessment are around £300
The benefits of managing risk in this way should be a no brainer for most boards however big or small.
Christine Andrews is Managing Director of DataIQ Consultancy
For more details on this and other initiatives such as DataIQ’s Radar ™ programme to protect valuable data contact Christine at Christine.firstname.lastname@example.org