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Chris Bush, Head of Security, ObserveIT discusses why Brexit doesn’t actually have to mean a less cyber-secure UK, in this article

Just this month, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, instructed government departments to devise a new fast-track visa system to attract leading scientists to work in the UK. Concern over skills and talent has rarely been out of the headlines since the referendum though the focus has, for a long time, been on finance and technology expertise. In relation to technology, concerns over national security and the ability to deal with cyber crime and nation-state attacks have bubbled up on the agenda repeatedly.

But, contrary to headlines, Brexit could actually mean a more cyber-secure UK. Rather than being a stumbling block, Brexit could be the catalyst that drives awareness of the importance of data security – especially around the insider threat – and motivates UK organisations (government departments, local authority bodies and businesses alike) to be at the forefront of security best practices.

Insider threats (typified by former CIA employee Edward Snowden) continue to increase year-on-year and no business is immune. Even Elon Musk alleged there was a saboteur within Tesla who had deliberately damaged manufacturing operations last year. Though malicious insiders are often motivated by financial gain, ideological motivations are also a top driver.

So far, the vote to leave the EU has already cost the average worker more than a week’s wages due to the fall in the value of the pound and resulting higher prices, according to the University of Warwick. And, we already know that Brexit is also making it more difficult for UK firms to recruit talent, with CIPD’s Labour Market Outlook showing a whopping 95 per cent fall in EU nationals joining the workforce between Q1 2016 and Q1 2018.

Whether from negative impacts on wages and workloads or upset over leaving the EU, it’s not hard to imagine how Brexit could be a potential flashpoint for the insider threat in organisations up and down the country. A trusted, but disgruntled, employee or contractor could deliberately compromise trading to make a point, while discontent can also breed apathy, resulting in people being lax with data-security processes.

We know from our own research that almost 34% of UK IT bosses recognise that a stressed/overworked staff member could make a mistake with data, while 40% believe disgruntlement might contribute to an insider threat. Yet, despite this insight, only half (52%) of businesses are investing in employee happiness and wellbeing.

Faced with economic and political uncertainty, UK organisations can’t afford any “own” goals: They must prioritise efforts around the insider threat. While career cyber-criminals will always look for creative ways to steal data, all insiders remain a risk to company information. Not only can they make mistakes, exposing data to outsiders inadvertently, there is also the risk that they can go rogue.

The good news is that these problems are solvable. By prioritising people in the cyber security equation, and proactively putting processes and technology in place that detect and identify instances of data misuse as early as possible, the risk of this type of breach can be mitigated and civil servants, advisors and business leaders can just get on with focussing on the future.

This approach begins with effective training of employees and contractors accompanied by visibility into user activity across the entire computer network. Being able to know the whole story of who, what, when, where and why, when it comes to user activity enables organisations to detect potential threats in real-time and view user activity and data movement in context.

People can then make well-informed assessments of risky behaviour and conduct fast and effective investigations, and learn from incidents. Given telecoms giant, Verizon, recently found that 15 per cent of the global data breaches it investigated originated from people within the organisation, regular communication and coordination among security teams, HR, legal and leadership is also key to stopping breaches.

Ultimately, good data-security doesn’t depend on membership of the EU but Brexit is a somewhat perfect opportunity for UK entities to re-evaluate security efforts, from the inside out, and, in doing so, set the standard in Europe and beyond.


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