If cybercrime is the fire, IT outages are the frying pan

If cybercrime is the fire, IT outages are the frying pan

Article published in Finance Derivative written by Marie Clutterbuck, CMO at Tectrade

Cybercrime has for long posed a significant threat to businesses in nearly every sector and, crucially, the attempts to breach systems are occurring with alarming regularity. For instance, A SonicWall Cyber Threat Report examined Q1 and Q2 of 2019, and revealed there was a 195% increase in ransomware attacks on UK businesses – highlighting the prevalence of the issue. High-profile attacks in the media makes for cautionary reading and instances like the 2018 WannaCry saga certainly live long in our memories – serving as a warning to those who don’t keep necessary recovery precautions central to operations. There’s no doubt that cyberattacks can be extremely damaging, and whilst they do tend to catch most of the headlines, the more mundane IT outages are equally damaging yet often-overlooked by organisations’ IT strategies.

While the importance of implementing cybersecurity measures cannot be questioned, figures published by the FCA show security was responsible for just 119 out of 646 operational incidents at financial firms over the course of one year. This shows that while sporadic large-scale hacks, like the recent Capital One Breach that saw the attacker gain access to over 100 million customers’ data, are extremely costly, the prevalence of IT outages are becoming an increasing concern for the sector. While there may be some sympathy for companies targeted by cyber-criminals, allowing an IT outage to bring operations to a halt due to mismanagement, miscalculation or failing to keep systems up to date puts the IT team and senior management firmly in the firing line.

On average, UK banks are hit by at least one IT outage a day, a number which is likely to rise over the coming years as systems are increasingly moving to digital form. Cases where customers are locked out of their accounts are becoming a frequent issue, as witnessed by millions of Visa customers last year when an outage left both individuals and businesses unable to complete transaction for up to a day, highlighting the fragility of such networks. Similarly, TSB’s 2018 migration failure shows the extent of the damage that can occur during a major outage, and has become a quasi-mythical tale of what not to do, and for good reason. While the length of the outage was a determining factor in the resulting damage, the bank only exacerbated issues through its lack of transparency with customers. The two week long outage cost £330 million in lost revenue, 12,500 customers and led to the resignation of the CEO.

It’s clear that a new approach to IT operations and management must be taken, one that focuses on operational resilience. Resilience not only means minimising the likelihood of an outage from happening, but crucially ensuring that when a problem does occur, systems can quickly be brought back to full operation.

In the event of an outage, financial institutions must have zero-day architecture in place to bring systems back online as quickly as possible to limit both financial losses and inconvenience to customers. The key here is planning, and this needs to be done and tested well in advance to have any effect. This system essentially follows the so called 3-2-1 backup rule, which is the strategy of keeping at least three copies of your data, and storing two backup copies on different storage media, with a further one held offsite. Knowing backup copies will be available no matter what, IT teams can then choose a set of strategic policies for different data sets, meaning that a recovery protocol based on urgency will be created, ranking the data so that the most crucial sets will be brought back first in case of an outage to allow operations to continue without delay. When an incident occurs IT operators can revive the most important, previously decided upon, systems first, within minutes if need be, whereas other, less crucial, workloads can afford to wait a little longer, optimising storage and recovery costs.

Key concepts of system resilience such as backup and recovery may not be as exciting as the latest new and shiny cyber security application to hit the market. However, when all else fails they are the things you’ll be relying upon to get back up and running as quickly as possible. Investment in the basics of systems maintenance and IT operations certainly pays dividend in the long run.

Read the full article on  https://www.financederivative.com/if-cybercrime-is-the-fire-it-outages-are-the-frying-pan/

15.12.2019