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The five huge cybersecurity threats facing the public sector

18 March, 2022

It might not be stealing the headlines in the evening news, but the truth is that the UK’s public sector is at high risk of data breaches and cyberattacks.

The reason is simple, the public sector stores extensive amounts of sensitive information that cybercriminals can use for financial and political gains. Research shows that around 11% of cybersecurity incidents involve the public sector, and a fifth of UK public sector organisations reported over 1,000 cyberattacks in 2019.

While other sectors generally invest more heavily in new technology and updating systems, this is an area where the public sector has lagged traditionally.

Put bluntly, IT infrastructure in the public sector is renowned for being outdated, with organisations facing significant challenges in digital transformation due to the large cost and potential disruption. However, there are far greater threats facing the public sector. Join us as we share five key threats 👇

Five key cybersecurity threats faced by the public sector

  1. Lack of investment in new technology leaves outdated systems more vulnerable to cyber threats. Older technology usually has more weaknesses that bad actors can take advantage of.
  2. The increasing risk of ransomware is a big problem for public sector organisations. The WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017 cost the NHS £92 million, with over 19,000 appointments getting cancelled. Hackers target critical systems such as healthcare, as they know they are more likely to receive a payment.
  3. More sophisticated phishing attacks are another major issue affecting the public sector. Typically arriving in the form of an email, text or phone call, these scams have increased since the pandemic, with many attacks utilising urgency and fear to encourage thoughtless clicks. Just one click can give access to the entire network, from there, stealing crucial data is a simple task.
  4. Homeworking has also presented cyber criminals with opportunities to penetrate organisations’ systems due to inadequate cybersecurity. Using home internet connections is less secure than office systems, and there are other security weaknesses using home equipment.
  5. Human error is one of the top reasons for organisations experiencing a data breach. Criminals exploit employees’ human nature in several ways from phishing, as mentioned earlier, to attacks which rely on your team trusting an individual entering your premises is meant to be there.

How to protect your public sector organisation from cyberattacks

One of the obvious solutions is investing more money in updating legacy systems and installing improved cybersecurity technology. However, this is not always a possible option with limited budgets to work to.

Ensuring that there is an adequate security framework for homeworking should be a top priority, if employees are working from their home office and other remote locations.

Access management should be restricted to ensure that only the necessary employees are given access to the systems they need and have the appropriate access levels.

Perhaps most importantly, to protect your public sector organisation you must have adequate training programmes to empower employees to protect your organisation. Not all compliance training will help prevent cyber attacks successfully, however, because generic tick-box training does little to actually alter behaviours.

Bob’s Business provides a unique and effective approach to cybersecurity training by making truly engaging training content. With our storytelling-first approach, we help to develop a culture of employees who demonstrate high levels of cybersecurity awareness.

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Global Cyber Alliance