Following the successful G7 Summit, global eyes are firmly on the southwest - the UK’s tourism hotspot - and 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 along with the temperature.
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. Great news for business, however, the 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 Cyber Resilience Centre for the South West, is raising awareness of the likely impact this type of breach will have on local micro businesses and SMEs that don’t have basic cyber security in place.
“The headlines are regularly awash with how criminals are launching attacks, which according to a government report costs 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,” said Mark.
He explains that ransomware is when a user or entire business can no longer access the system and files they need to run their business. 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 and/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 1 Jun 2020 and 1 Jun 2021, with losses of more than £353k. However, it is widely reported that a considerable amount of breaches and threats go unreported due to a lack of knowledge in where and how to report the issue.
“This could happen to a family-run travel company or the local B&B, which hold huge amounts of sensitive customer data,” said Mark. “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,” added Mark.
“The travel and tourism industry offers holidaymakers tips and advice on staying safe during their time away, but they don’t often consider how to keep their business further protected. That’s where we step in to help keep unwanted guests – cyber criminals - at bay.
“G7 will I’m sure be a fantastic boost for regional tourism and we hope this will bring many advantages to the area but 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 Cyber Resilience Centre for the South West (SWCRC) is a police-led, not-for-profit organisation which helps small and medium-sized businesses build and improve cyber resilience maturity, 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 www.swcrcentre.co.uk. To keep updated with all the latest SWCRC developments, follow @soutwestcrc on Twitter, LinkedIn and sign up to receive the SWCRC e-news on the website.