Speaking at a cyber security event this week, Adam Beaumont, chief executive and founder of telecommunications company AQL, told attendees that it remained very easy for hackers to target companies and that more needed to be done to intervene with young people who showed promising IT skills to ensure they were not dragged into a life of online crime.
The event, dubbed Innovation Network: Cyber Security, Impact and Opportunities and run by Leeds Beckett University and Digital Catapult, also heard that if business giants like Google and Apple could be targeted by cyber criminals then all companies large and small were vulnerable.
Dr Cliff Schreuders, director of cybercrime and security innovation at Leeds Beckett, said: “In terms of defending yourself there are risks from remote attackers, people outside the organisation but also inside the organisation.
“Any way that a consumer can interact with you is an opportunity for an attack. If someone answers the phone or accesses the website they can attack you.
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“End users are one of the hardest things to defend against. If you are a bank then people are trying to attack your servers but also the people using your services.
“If Google and Apple can be attacked then you have to act on the assumption that you will. You need something in place.
“It only takes one mistake.”
Mr Beaumont told delegates that ensuring young people were not tempted into crime was essential, warning that many teenagers were adept enough to access company servers from their bedrooms.
He related the anecdote of a company he worked with as a consultant who were experiencing slowness with their servers. He found evidence of other people being on there that should not have been and eventually found that one of them was a 14-year-old boy, who was there just because he could and was not engaged in any criminal activity whatsoever. That young man ended up working for Mr Beaumont and now has a strong career in IT.
However he warned: “You need to nurture young people’s skills on cyber security, Without that outlet they will turn to the darkside and you have to keep them on track.
“It is very easy for a kid in a bedroom to hack you. If they have an issue with you or your company or your company or morals.
“If someone takes exception to you they can target you.
“It costs you five times more in resource to defend an attack then it does to do the hacking.
“Many people in this room will have unwanted guests on their server and not know they are there.”
Lloyd Emmerson, digital fraud manager with Lloyds Bank, said that keeping its 15 million users of online banking protected was “an extremely difficult task to do”.
“One of the biggest problems at the moment across the banking industry is individuals purporting to be someone they are not, calling you out of the blue and using sophisticated techniques to get information out of you.
“They will take you down a route where you download access software and allow them to attack. “If it doesn’t feel right, put the phone down. If it doesn’t feel right it usually isn’t.”