Cybercrime an increasing concern for Northern Ireland firms, warn experts
Almost half of UK businesses have experienced cybercrime, with legal and accountancy firms in Northern Ireland among those hit hardest, it's been claimed.
Grant Thornton, which is one of the world's largest professional services network of independent accounting and consulting staff, also revealed that cybercrime is becoming an increasingly sophisticated operation, with perpetrators running companies that are often larger than the businesses they try to exploit.
Cybercrime also cost the NI economy £100m in 2015, a figure that Grant Thornton believes is much lower than current costs.
In response to the news, both Grant Thornton and Barclays are hosting a security breakfast event titled 'Cyber Security: Staying Safe'. It will take place on October 12 at Barclays Eagle Labs in Belfast with a focus on safeguarding businesses here against cyber attacks.
Andrew Harbison, director of forensic and investigation Services at Grant Thornton, Martyn Lade, who works in Barclays' digital security team, and the PSNI's Alistair Burns will be guest speakers on the morning.
Mr Harbison said cybercrime firms are much bigger than what is perceived.
"These are sophisticated businesses and those involved are highly organised - they have research and development departments, and run profit and loss accounts," he said.
"More often than not, their targets are not big corporations, but rather small firms. For example, we're increasingly seeing small accountancy and legal practices targeted so that fraudsters can obtain personal information on their clients."
Alistair Burns, of the PSNI, said: "Recent figures indicate just under 50% of UK businesses experienced a cyber incident in 2016.
"Be it ransomware, network intrusion, DDOS or business email compromise, NI businesses continue to fall victim to a wide range of cyber-dependent and cyber-enabled crimes resulting in data loss, stolen funds, recovery costs and the potential to threaten local jobs."
Recent research by Website Builder Expert (WBE) into how vulnerable the EU is to cybercrime found Malta to be the EU nation most at risk, with a vulnerability score of 42%. The UK was scored 31% and Finland was deemed the most cyber-secure country at 29%.