The Real Economy


Cyber crime is on the rise, and the coronavirus pandemic has offered a ripe opportunity for cyber criminals to capitalise on the chaos.

Understand how to break the cyber crime kill chain with insights from RSM’s risk assurance experts and current data directly from the middle market.

The threat to the middle market

The threat to the middle market

Cyber criminals have their attention firmly focused on the middle market

As more middle market businesses embrace digital transformation, they need to act to protect themselves from a growing number of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks. 

The past 12 months has seen the cyber crime threat amplified by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic; cyber criminals have utilised the impact of the pandemic on businesses to target workforces that are distracted by the operational chaos and fear around the uncertainty of a health and economic crisis. 

20 per cent of our respondents have experienced a cyber attack during the past 12 months. Of this sample, 71 per cent stated the attack was as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Experienced attacks as a direct result of the pandemic

The evidence we see in our recent survey does not suggest cyber attackers are discriminating by the size of business, but that those in the middle market are frequently seen as easy targets. Effective attacks can be executed in less time and can be equally as fruitful as successful attacks against large corporates. With the continuing advances in AI and automation, and the increased focus on digitisation in the middle market, businesses need to be focusing on their cyber security in order to protect themselves. 

Misplaced confidence in security?

Misplaced confidence in security?

Middle market business have a high level of confidence in their precautions

In spite of the severe threat to the middle market, our data shows that middle market businesses have a high level of confidence in their precautions. 92 per cent of respondents stated they are confident in their current measures to safeguard sensitive customer and client data from unauthorised access. 

Whilst confidence is high, it is vital for middle market businesses to continue to embed a security culture in their organisations. High-profile cases seen in the media may be encouraging a dangerous, and incorrect, perception that only large brands and organisations are the intended targets of cyber crime. 

How confident are you in your measures to safeguard data?

As proven by events through 2020, the cyber crime risk landscape changes rapidly, and as such middle market business should focus on their maturity towards cyber security. By adopting firm risk management principals and security controls that aid mitigating risk, businesses will be on their way to properly protecting themselves.

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New working practices

New working practices

Are businesses becoming complacent in lockdown?

The coronavirus lockdowns forced huge numbers of employees out of their offices and into their homes, and for longer than anyone anticipated. As businesses were busy dealing with the operational fall out of trying to continue business as usual with a workforce operating from their living rooms, the resource usually invested in security was, perhaps understandably, channelled elsewhere. 

Cyber criminals have been able to capitalise on weakened infrastructures, and therefore businesses need to be pulling their cyber security back into focus.

Sheila Pancholi, Risk Specialist, RSM UK

‘The mass exodus from offices naturally resulted in some compromises; widespread IT equipment shortages resulted personal laptops being used, or technology sent out to staff without the necessary security, such as encryption and anti-virus software,’ comments RSM risk specialist Sheila Pancholi. ‘For many, the omission of such security protocols may not have seemed to present a significant risk compared to the operational fallout of staff being unable to work effectively. However, cyber criminals have been able to capitalise on these weakened infrastructures, and therefore businesses need to be pulling their cyber security back into focus’. 

As UK businesses begin to transition out of the pandemic much strategic planning will be based around ‘new working practices.’ The way office space is utilised is likely to be different, with many businesses considering the options available to increase employee wellbeing and productivity, including reducing commute time and office space overheads. In order to remain protected against cyber crime businesses need to consider their security in line with their approach towards new ways of working or risk leaving themselves exposed to growing threats.

The growing sophistication in attacks

The growing sophistication in attacks

Advances in technologies are useful to hackers as well as businesses

Progress in technologies such as AI or robotic process automation are proving extremely beneficial to cyber attackers, just as they are for middle market business. These technologies enable attackers to dramatically increase the number of attacks executed in a much shorter time frame and in greater coordination with other criminals. 

The same types of attacks that have been used for the last decade - phishing, business takeover threats and ransomware – are still commonly used, but they are growing in intelligence, speed and sophistication. Businesses protection must keep pace with these increasingly sophisticated attacks if they are to stay immune from the cyber criminal threat. 

When asked what actions they've taken following raised awareness of cyber attacks, our survey respondents said: 

The key to robust security lies with leadership. Those that empower their workforce with training and effective tools will be laying down a robust foundation for their cyber security to build on and develop.

The key point with digital transformation is not to be scared of the investment because of the cyber risks, but to ensure that you are one step ahead of the security threats.

Chris Knowles, Chief Digital Officer, RSM UK
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