WARNING: The faint hearted should not read on.

We recently heard about a major cyber-attack on our NHS hospitals and GP surgeries via a device called Ransomware. Computers were hacked, surgeries postponed, patients referred and Ambulances diverted.  The public remain concerned about beaches of confidentiality. “Urgent care has not been compromised” said the NHS through gritted-teeth, but how can they possibly know the magnitude of the problem where confidentiality is compromised.  The statement of reassurance from the NHS sounded more like a statement of self-preservation.  Was patient confidentiality jeopardised?  Probably not this time. Was patient data encrypted or lost forever.  Absolutely Yes.  Lost medical data will likely result in lost lives.

Call me daft, but have we not seen this coming for some time? These bullies are ruthless and they don’t discriminate. We are all potential targets of cybercrime – from the small one-man Consultancy to the UK-wide or even International Corporation.  These people don’t care.  They hack you, they take control and then they blackmail you. These criminals don’t care who you are.  They ask for money for return of your business but the truth is you will never see your data again no matter how much you pay them.

Our HR Consultancy based in Swindon was hacked recently and we received that ‘Oops email.’ followed by a freezing of all our data and a demand for money.  We were being held to ransom.  Fortunately, in our case, data was safe thank goodness to routine back up’s and solid housekeeping practices. We had to resort back to factory settings but we were soon up and running again. Don’t get me wrong, it caused frustration, lost time and significant cost to our business so we can only imagine what this situation might do to our National Health Service or any other national institution for that matter – public or private sector.

So, what about future risk.  As technology changes and these cyberbullies become more cyber-savvy, risk to industry will increase tenfold. Capturing data and using the actual data to blackmail Industry, worldwide, is something they are working on.  Just image your personal data in the hands of crooks.  If you were worried today about ‘Big Brother’ monitoring you, you haven’t seen anything yet.

So where is all this leading?  We run a workplace helpline and a national bullying helpline and already we hear, on a weekly basis, about spying techniques in the workplace.  Bullies use technology as a platform to bully and control their targets.

A recent trend which we are hearing about in the workplace involves the simple uploading of an APP called Spyware which may be purchased for a cost equivalent to just one cup of coffee per day.  It’s easy to upload and ‘hey presto’ the bully is in complete control.  Where this happens in the workplace it is up to the employer to manage the behaviour.  Ultimately, responsibility will lie with the employer but it will be a nightmare for the most skilled of managers, even those with an appreciation for employment law and Corporate Risk.

Without doubt we have seen nothing yet. Whether it is a giant cyber attacker or an individual working through an APP, whether it is a small employer or a national public sector body, the principles are the same.   These criminals will use any technology platform they can to indiscriminately bully, abuse and blackmail.   Given opportunity they will target our Parliament, utility providers, small or large organisations worldwide, including Google and even Mark Zuckerberg.  Future risk of hacking and spying across industry, worldwide, is frankly probably beyond the comprehension of most of us today.


Author: Christine Pratt.
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