Friday, 17 March 2017

Don't let your Recruitment Agency be held Hostage!

In my last blog, I talked about the steps that recruiters need to be taking in order to prepare their businesses for GDPR compliance

One of the key steps is to identify threats to the personal data you hold, and as such today I wanted to alert recruiters to one particular cyber security threat that is very prevalent at the moment, and is proving extremely costly to recruiters: namely “ransomware”.

Ransomware is a form of malicious software (malware), which effectively hijacks your data by encrypting it and demanding payment of a ransom in return for the security key needed to decrypt it.

A survey last year conducted by Osterman Research revealed that 54% of organisations in the UK were attacked in the previous 12 months, some of them on multiple occasions. Such an attack will almost always cause significant disruption and financial losses to a recruiter, so it is well worth understanding the risks and the steps that can be taken to mitigate them before you are attacked.

Be under no illusion, hijacking your data is big business for the cyber criminals behind it, as it provides them with a relatively easy way to earn large sums of money quickly. According to the Trustwave Global Security report, the return on investment for ransomware authors and practitioners is estimated to be over 1400%, which helps to bring clarity as to why this threat is so prevalent and is growing at such an alarming rate. Compared with other types of cybercrime, ransomware is also relatively low risk to the attacker, with none of the complications of trying to sell on the stolen information, and payments being made in the near untraceable "bit coin" currency.

Now while cyber criminals are happily making money from ransomware, let’s not lose sight of the damage they are causing your business in the process: if you were one of the 54% of businesses to experience one of these attacks last year, you basically will have had two choices: pay the ransom or recover your systems from back up.

If you choose the latter option, then you will undoubtedly have a period of downtime whilst everything is restored, even assuming a full recovery is successful, which is by no means guaranteed. This option is far from ideal as the impact of IT downtime is dramatic with one recent study showing that of those businesses who experienced downtime:

• 52% experienced a loss of employee productivity

• 34% lost revenue as a direct result of the outage

• 23% experienced a loss of customer confidence or loyalty

• 10% lost a new business opportunity

However, the alternative is to pay the ransom; a decision which may have a significant financial impact on your business, as well as serving to perpetuate the business of the cyber criminals. To give you an idea, according to a study undertaken by Osterman Research last year, two in five UK-based organisations experienced ransom demands in excess of £3500 and 3% were presented with demands in excess of £35,000. Somewhat worryingly, the study also showed that 58% of firms in the UK opted to pay the ransom, which would seem to suggest that the risks around this threat had not been fully assessed or planned for, and contrasts sharply with data from the US where only 3% of victims paid the ransom. It is also worth noting that in some cases businesses have paid ransoms but their data has not been decrypted, leaving them bearing both the financial losses of the ransom and the impact of losing their data.

So with either option being far from ideal and likely to cause significant disruption and financial losses to a recruiter, the mantra "prevention is better than cure" certainly holds true in this case.

So is it just a case of installing some anti-virus software or setting up a firewall rule to block these sort of threats? Sadly not. The way these threats are structured means that they can easily circumvent these basic technological safeguards.

As someone who runs a secure private cloud solution for Recruitment Businesses, understanding cyber security threats such as ransomware, and implementing the complex blend of technologies, processes, procedures and training that are needed to minimise the risks from these threats, are paramount to my firm’s success.

If you would like to discuss ways in which Xara Computers can help you reduce your recruitment business’s risk from cyber security threats, please do not hesitate to contact myself, or my colleague Andrew Banning, on 0208 732 5656 or email us on or