Report on cyber security in UK businesses makes for depressing reading, but the real problem could be much worse

A cyber-security survey carried out by Ipsos Mori has revealed almost half of UK businesses were attacked by cyber criminals in the past 12 months.

The survey commissioned by the UK government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport found that overall 46% of all UK businesses identified at least one cyber-security breach or attack in the last 12 months – the number of identified attacks rises to two-thirds among medium-sized firms (66%) and large firms (68%).

Although these figures are alarming, cyber-security experts say these figures only account for known breaches.

In reality the examples of cyber attacks might be even higher than figures show.

“This is probably an underestimate if anything. Two reasons for this, firstly, this assumes they even know they have been hit, secondly people are more likely to under-report,” said Anton Grashion, managing director of security practice at software firm Cylance.

“Evidence of our testing when we run a proof of concept with prospective customers is that we almost invariably discover active malware on their systems, so it’s the unconscious acceptance of risk that plagues both large and small businesses.”

Among the 46% of businesses that detected breaches in the last 12 months, Ipsos Mori’s survey found that the average business faced costs of £1,570 as a result.

However, this figure is much higher for the average large firm, at £19,600, though the average medium firm (£3,070) and micro and small firms (£1,380) also incured sizeable costs.

“Many businesses still remain unprepared for a cyber attack because it’s difficult to prepare for something you don’t understand, can’t visualise, and haven’t experienced,” said Paul Edon, director at security firm Tripwire.

“The dynamic nature of cyber attacks often makes it hard to pinpoint a root cause, so executives with a desire to prepare are faced with choices, rather than clear actions to fund.”

Image courtesy of Fabio Lanari

The survey found only a quarter (26%) of surveyed companies reported their most disruptive breaches externally to anyone other than a cyber security provider.

The findings suggest that some businesses lack awareness of who to report to, why to report breaches and what reporting achieves.

In addition to not knowing where to report attacks, companies also claim they are unsure of where to obtain advice on how to prevent cyber attacks.

While 58% of businesses have sought information, advice or guidance on the cyber security threats facing their organisations over the past year, only 4% had consulted government or other public sector sources such as the police or regulators.

“British business need to realise there is an entire global cyber criminal economy that out earns the illegal drug industry in terms of revenue.

“Cyber programs need to wake up and adapt into a detect and response approach that places equal investments in prevention as it does detection of hackers,” said Paul Calatayud, chief technology officer at security company FireMon.

The full Cyber Security Breaches Survey is available here.

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Stronger in old age: Stem cell research paves way for muscle-building medication

It could in the future be possible to take medication that will allow you to build muscle, even when you are in old age.

This is due to the findings of research at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, which found that large, and wholly unexpected, amounts of mutations in muscle stem cells blocks their ability to regenerate cells.

“What is most surprising is the high number of mutations. We have seen how a healthy 70-year-old has accumulated more than 1,000 mutations in each stem cell in the muscle, and that these mutations are not random but there are certain regions that are better protected,” said Maria Eriksson, professor at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at Karolinska Institutet.

With this knowledge, researchers could develop therapies that would encourage such regeneration, and so allow older people to rebuild lost muscle.

“We can demonstrate that this protection diminishes the older you become, indicating an impairment in the cell’s capacity to repair their DNA. And this is something we should be able to influence with new drugs,” explained Eriksson.

The landmark research, which is published today in the journal Nature Communications, involved the use of single stem cells, which were cultivated to provide enough DNA for whole genome sequencing – a medical first for this part of the body.

“We achieved this in the skeletal muscle tissue, which is absolutely unique. We have also found that there is very little overlap of mutations, despite the cells being located close to each other, representing an extremely complex mutational burden,” said study first author Irene Franco, a postdoc in Eriksson’s research group.

While a significant step, the research is now being expanded to look at whether exercise affects the number of mutations – a potentially vital factor in understand why and how these mutations occur.

“We aim to discover whether it is possible to individually influence the burden of mutations. Our results may be beneficial for the development of exercise programmes, particularly those designed for an ageing population,” said Eriksson.

The research is one of a host of projects being conducted across the world that have potential impacts on ageing, an area that was long ignored by much of the scientific community, but is now garnering increased support.

If many – or even a fair minority – of these findings eventually become the basis of therapeutics, it could be transformative for old age in the future, allowing people to remain healthier for far later in life and potentially even leading to longer life expectancies.