Secure Workplace

Protecting the Powerhouse from Cyber-Attacks

by Steven Forrest

From Trump to TalkTalk, barely a week seems to go by without a major cyber-security incident being reported in the news. And these are only the ones that we hear about. What about the ones no-one knows have even taken place?

A year ago, we argued in the New Statesman’s first ever Northern Powerhouse supplement that smarter working habits were needed for the Northern Powerhouse to flourish. And this is because of what many commentators describe as the advent of the fourth industrial revolution.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is Upon Us

The wave of digitisation sweeping across the business world has, and is increasingly transforming what work means. The growth in connectivity of smart devices, cloud services and collaboration tools mean that the ability to work is no longer confined to time and geography. And that opens up huge opportunities for Northern cities.

However, these increased opportunities have also increased the threats available to those that wish to pillage, plunder and exploit.

Worryingly, Newcastle tops the national table for cyber-security problems. According to Censuswide, more than 93% of businesses in Newcastle and the surrounding areas who employer over 200 employees suffered a data breach in the last year or so.

2016 will be remembered for a lot of (mostly bad) things. One of those is the explosive growth of a particularly type of attack known as Ransomware – the denial of digital services held for a financial ransom. Some sources report that Ransomware attacks increased threefold in 2016, with one in five businesses affected worldwide. In fact, during the third quarter of the 2016, there were 32,091 new ransomware variations detected by Kaspersky Lab, compared to only 2,900 during the first quarter.

The genius of Ransomware is that it monetises assets that, in most cases, are only valuable to that of the victim. The most painful aspect of these attacks, is that not all hackers play fair. Often, even after the victim has paid the ransom, their data and assets are never retrieved.

The Evolution of Risk

Headquartered in the North East, Forfusion is typically invited in by organisations that are worried about risk. Risks associated with ageing IT systems, risks of not having efficient and scalable tools to attract and retain top talent, risks of providing substandard customer experience. Essentially, the risk of being left behind. According to Forbes, 52% of the Fortune 500 have disappeared in the last 15 years. Most of these demises can be attributed to the failure to mitigate the risks of not embracing digitisation.

These days, the risks facing organisations of all shapes and sizes is much more direct - the risk of being targeted and compromised by cyber-attacks. There are currently 15 billion connected devices in the world today (that’s more than twice as many humans). By 2030, Cisco estimates there will be 500 billion. Whilst this increased digitisation could add up to $14 trillion to the global economy over the next decade, many commentators predict that in turn, the global cybercrime market could be worth between $450 billion - $1 trillion.

It’s clear that as working habits become smarter, cyber-security habits must become even smarter if the Northern Powerhouse is to continue to thrive. This is why Fofusion is offering organisations a Free Cyber-Security Threat Scan Report. To arrange yours, visit

This article originally appeared in the New Statesman's policy report Spotlight in March 2017.

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