Why You Must Report A Cyber Attack

Cyber incidents can have dire consequences. The theft of private, financial, or other sensitive data and cyber attacks that damage computer systems can cause lasting harm to anyone engaged in personal or commercial online transactions. Such risks are increasingly faced by businesses, consumers, and every other Internet user. 

Once you’ve suffered a cyber attack, much of the damage has already been done. There’s no way to make the disruption disappear or to circumvent your data breach notification requirements.  Ignoring the attack or your regulatory obligations will only make things worse.

Under the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) EU organisations are required to notify their relevant supervisory authority within 72 hours of discovering certain types of data breach. Specifically, you must notify your supervisory authority if the incident “poses a risk to the rights and freedoms of natural living persons”.Additionally, you must notify affected individuals if the incident results in a “high risk”.

Before you contact anyone, you must identify whether the data breach meets that threshold. That might seem like even more work, but it can have significant short, and long-term benefits. For example, reporting an incident allows individuals to look out for suspicious activity, such as money disappearing from their bank accounts, and enables them to take steps to protect themselves.

Notification also helps other organisations prepare for similar attacks. Criminals often reuse successful techniques, whether it’s a particular scam method or a network vulnerability, and officially announcing this threat gives organisations time to address the issue. If all organisations do this, you will benefit massively in the long run.

This issue connects to a far bigger problem - that no one is truly aware of just how big the threat of cyber crime is. The number of reported incidents has surged in the past few years, but experts suspect there are still a vast number of unreported breaches.

If there was more transparency, organisations would realise how important it is to address cyber security. It would also make criminals’ jobs harder. As it is, cyber crime is practically a no-risk venture: whether you succeed or fail, you fly under the radar and almost certainly won’t face any consequences. Organisations might counter these points by noting that very few cyber criminals are identified even when cyber crime is reported.

A survey by the National Crime Agency found that only 38% of respondents are confident that law enforcement responds appropriately to cyber attacks.

This problem is made worse by the low level of conviction and the light punishment that convicted cyber criminals receive. Cyber security journalist Brian Krebs reports on the prosecution of cyber criminals and, commenting on one case, “Courts around the world continue to send a clear message that young men essentially can do whatever they like when it comes to DDoS attacks and that there will be no serious consequences as a result. ...if we don’t have the stomach to put these “talented young hackers” in jail when they’re ultimately found guilty, perhaps we should consider harnessing their skills in less draconian but still meaningfully punitive ways.. such as requiring them to serve several years participating in programs designed to keep other kids from follow.”

Breached organisations aren’t the only ones that need reconsider the value of identifying and responding to cyber attacks. It requires a coordinated effort from everybody involved to appreciate the magnitude of the problem and how to reduce it. Cyber crime continues to rise in scale and complexity, affecting essential services, businesses and private individuals alike. It costs the UK billions of pounds, causes untold damage, and threatens national security. 

Organisations’ responses should include a detailed breach notification procedure, but it’s just as important to fortify defences and mitigate the threat of attacks.

DHS:     NCA:    NCSC:      IT Governance:      IT Governance:     Digital Social Care:   

University of Michigan:     Brian Krebs:

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US Cyber Security Chiefs Support Mandatory Incident Reporting:

 

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