Top 5 industries targeted by cyber attacks in the UK

Did you know more than four in ten (around 43%) UK businesses experienced cyber attacks or a cyber security breach in 2018?

In fact, cyber-security is a challenge that’s becoming more important than ever, especially for businesses in the financial sector. But there are other industries that are just as prone to cyber attacks, if not more.

cyber attacks

Hackers work internationally, so locations aren’t a good indication of your risk of being attacked, however industry hot spots like London and other major cities are likely to see more cyber attacks than others.

As an IT Support company in the city, we see cyber attacks all day long, from the small scale ‘viruses’ to full blown, business crippling, ransomware. In this article, we take a closer look at the industries that are highly susceptible to cyber attacks in 2019, what kind of potential cyber threats are on the horizon, and finally, how to safeguard your business if it belongs to any of these industries.

Top 5 industries targeted by cyber attacks in the UK

1. SME sector

Even though you can find more media reports focusing on larger-scale cyber-attacks such as the cyber security breaches at Netflix, JP Morgan, and Target, the most frequent cyber threats have been to SME sector. Industry experts claim that 60 percent of SMBs will collapse within 6 months after the result of a cyber-attack. This is the main reason why small business IT support comes in handy for businesses across the board.

Let’s have a look at what kind of cyber security breaches small and midsize businesses fall victim to. There are a number of factors, including but not limited to:

  • Storing data that’s valuable to hackers (for example, sensitive personal information, credit card numbers, etc.).
  • Linking to the supply chain of a much larger company, which makes it easy to break into their business operations.
  • Lacking the crucial security measures and availability of trained IT security personnel.
  • Being very vulnerable to ransomware (more on this later in the article).
  • Failing to use a third-party service or small business IT support team to help back up and secure their data.

2. Financial services sector

Financial services, hedge funds, and investment firms, including banks, are all-time favourites for cyber hackers. It can’t be stressed enough how crucial it is to safeguard your business in the financial services sector. Especially considering the new cyber security threats emerging on a daily basis and given the nature of the business plus the kind of sensitive information these organizations handle on a daily basis. And most important of all – money!

According to the 2017 Threat Intelligence Index published by IBM, businesses and organisations belonging to the financial services sector were the most-commonly attacked. These kinds of risks are expected to increase for smaller franchised financial service providers this year, along with the businesses that rely on a distributed IT infrastructure.

Apart from this, online banking is expected to reach 75 percent of all financial transactions, according to the latest stats and studies on this topic. Back in 2014, the financial services sector was the most cyber-attacked industry, and things are not going to change drastically in 2019. Of course, there’s a reason why big international financial organisations like JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Citibank have decided to heavily invest into cybercrime security measures, and the same goes for smaller financial services providers who are equally prone to cyber attacks due to their affiliations with bigger enterprises.

According to a recent study conducted by Accenture after closely reviewed 30 major banking apps they found that all of them had vulnerabilities ranging from insecure authentication to insecure data storage.

What makes the situation even worse is that close to 85% of the tested financial service apps had security flaws that would easily give in to cyber attacks against their consumers – and the service providers, especially banks are not fully aware of these security issues yet.

Here are some of the top reasons why banking related apps and websites pose a special security threat to their customers:

  • Insecure data storage.
  • Ineffective or inadequate data encryption.
  • Lack of server security.
  • Inadequate authentication levels during user log-in.
  • Data isn’t encrypted in the transport layer from client to server and/or from server to client.
  • Data leakage issue or lack of data security on the user side.
  • Execution of malicious code on the users’ mobile device via the mobile app.

It must also be noted that financial institutions handle a lot of money on a daily basis which is the main temptation for cyber hackers.

3. Healthcare

Ransomware is a major threat to healthcare organizations. In fact, back in 2016, this industry faced at least one cyber security breach every single day, which affected more than 27 million patients when their personal health records were sold on the darknet to cyber hackers.

The problem is not cyber threats, but the fact that most healthcare organizations are highly vulnerable to these kinds of cyber attacks and they aren’t equipped well to defend themselves. Plus, a majority of these organizations have vulnerabilities in the unpatched operating systems or the legacy software and hardware they use.

As healthcare providers have given rise to more inter-connected medical devices than ever before, there has been tremendous growth in unsecured IoT devices that carry patient’s sensitive data. As a result, cybercriminals and hackers are developing more sophisticated techniques to attack the healthcare organizations in order to gain access to their sensitive data and then demand a ransom.

Furthermore, the proliferation of unsecured IoT devices in healthcare has raised concerns about the safety of software as medical devices. Ensuring robust cybersecurity measures is paramount to safeguarding patient data and preventing potentially life-threatening breaches in medical device functionality.”

The healthcare industry has been very slow to respond to threats when it comes to cyber security, compared to other industries. Having said this, many healthcare organisations have already increased their cyber security budgets and they are the ones who are getting better at securing their sensitive data and networks and blocking cyber attacks.

4. Government agencies

Needless to say, government agencies have access to a lot of confidential information about the citizens, including but not limited to location information, fingerprints, and much more. All servers and databases, including the ones operated by government agencies, are prone to known vulnerabilities, unfortunately. This same vulnerability has resulted in huge volumes of cyber attacks on government agencies in recent years.

5. Education sector

Similar to the government agencies, the education sector is also a goldmine for cyber hackers, if you consider the kind of private contact information, government IDs, and credit card details as such. But most importantly, educational records are a target for people who want to change identities, and somehow trick their way into employment opportunities.

Malware and hacking are the top cyber threats to educational institutions. Just consider this example – if users, including instructors and students, are unable to (for some reason) terminate their web sessions, hackers can easily access their private data. The same applies to self-installing malware, typically found on computers running on some older versions of Windows Operating Systems.

Final thoughts

Who would want to have their business relationships compromised just because a couple of hackers with an ill intent choose to break in? This is why it’s always imperative to take the required steps to safeguard your business and your client’s interests, no matter what industry you are in.

If you are serious about protecting everything that’s at stake (including your business reputation), it’s crucial for you to take the required steps – and this includes two options. You can either hire a team of ethical hackers to find all the existing loopholes in your business operations or simply outsource all the work to IT support companies who constantly monitor your systems and know exactly what they are doing, for just a fraction of cost!

Regardless of what option you choose to go with, always ensure the cyber security of your business operations, especially if you work in the financial sector because you never know if your business is the next target of cyber hackers!

Feel free to reach out to IT support companies for expert advice on this topic. Stay safe!

If you’d like to know more about the biggest cyber threats to UK businesses and how to avoid them check out our infographic here.