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Ready the Red Team! SBRC’s Declan Doyle Explains Ethical Hacking

Declan Doyle

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Ethical Hacking

Declan Doyle, Head of Ethical Hacking, Scottish Business Resilience Centre discusses the importance of ethical hackers in tackling cyber crime.

2020 saw an enormous number of businesses embrace remote or hybrid working as they sought to keep employees safe during the pandemic whilst ensuring business continuity.

However, a malicious side effect has been an increase in security attacks: the National Cyber Security Centre’s Annual Review 2020 observed an increase in online scams, including more than 15,000 coronavirus-related malicious campaigns.

In some ways, this was to be expected. Fraudsters will always try to take advantage of people in times of uncertainty. The country going into lockdown and significant rise in homeworking was an opportunity for cyber criminals to seize control of the chaos.

Notably, we’ve seen a rise in phishing emails, fake charities, fraudulent sales of medical supplies, and more.

But while many of these cyber crimes directly relate to taking advantage of uncertainties around the coronavirus, there are also increasing numbers of scams trying to exploit the changing working environment.

In other words, this isn’t just a challenge for companies in healthcare and healthcare-adjacent industries. It is a concern for every business in every industry.

Cybersecurity professionals will often mention a “blue team” and a “red team.” These are phrases that originally got their start in military exercises to test preparedness for an attack: the blue team defends, and the red team attacks.

If, as the saying goes, the best defence is a good offence, you have to be sure that offence can withstand an attack.

The best way to check this? Ethical hacking.

The blue team builds up cybersecurity networks and puts into place protocols to defend the “castle” (i.e. the business). The red team – ethical hackers, or penetration testers – then attempt to break in. They use the same tools and techniques as a criminal hacker, but with one critical difference: these hackers have permission.

Bringing in a red team has myriad benefits for an organisation. Ethical hackers will ensure sensitive data stays private, and make sure hackers can’t modify anything on your website or network.

At the end of the process you will understand your vulnerabilities and fix them before they are exploited. The improved security will build investors’ and customers’ trust. Ethical hacking can also test your employees’ responses to an attempting cyber-attack, providing an opportunity for training and education where necessary.

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As an added bonus, in the event you do experience a cyber-attack, showing that you’ve put in the work to prevent an attack may help reduce any fines from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Confirming the security of your data and networks is immensely important today. It is easier to think about what we don’t use computers for than what we do, especially now that most of us are working at home or on the go. Data is the most valuable asset businesses have – whether that is owned data or information held on their customers.

Ethical hackers help an organisation understand what aspects of its network and data are most at risk, and how they can best protect it. They give businesses a chance to see the organisation from the perspective of a hacker but without the risk of any data breaches or theft.

With so many people conducting business online these days, it is more important than ever to ensure the network is safe. In 2021, ethical hacking will be key to doing that.

Declan Doyle

Head of Ethical Hacking, Scottish Business Resilience Centre

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