Hot Dates And Hot Data

Companies may need to re-assess their exposure to cyber-crime following the release of 2500 customer records by hackers of the extra-marital dating website, Ashley Madison.

Ashley Madison, which promotes itself with the strapline ‘Life is short, have an affair’, has more than 33 million members in 46 countries. The company has faced a barrage of calls from customers, concerned that their personal details and credit card information have been compromised as a result of the incident.

Ashley Madison’s problems are a reflection of a fast-growing area of crime, as more and more criminals exploit the speed, convenience and anonymity of the internet. The Metropolitan Police has recently announced it is boosting the size of its team to tackle cyber-crime and the Government has issued guidance for companies, in a bid to stem the range of criminal activities that know no borders, either physical or virtual.

For companies, cyber-criminals may attack the functioning of computer hardware and software, or try to commit financial crimes, such as online fraud or by penetrating online financial services, or go ‘phishing’ for confidential information. For company directors, the advice is to ensure the topic is at the top of the boardroom agenda.

As well as having to meet the requirements of the Data Protection Act and the Communications Act in the UK, also up and coming is the draft EU Data Protection Regulation and the proposed EU Cybersecurity Directive. There are requirements under the Companies Act 2006 also, which place a duty on directors to keep themselves informed on relevant issues. They may be held to be negligent if they do not take appropriate professional or expert advice to tackle any identified threats.

The key components for business are to undertake a risk analysis, develop a cyber-security programme, set in place the right policies and take appropriate technological measures.

“Every business must ask itself what value there is in information they hold electronically, for example, it may be intellectual property, customer information or client funds. Then they need to consider where the risk lies; as well as outside criminals, the risk could come from current or previous employees or competitors,” explains Partner and Head of the Commercial Department, Gillian Jones. “The response to that review should include a clear cyber-security strategy, with policies in place and staff well informed, backed up by a regular review and updating of technological practices.”

IT system reviews would range from how networks are monitored for attack and what firewalls and malware detection software is in place, through to how internal and external users are controlled and how access may be segregated or restricted.

For more information on data protection contact Gillian Jones.


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