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Cyber attack – the biggest lie we tell ourselves

Cyber-attacks have been quite prevalent in the news recently, the most notable attack recently being the malware affecting a significant portion of the NHS, causing untold disruption. Other well-documented attacks have involved TalkTalk, Yahoo and Adobe.

While most people cannot understand the motivation behind this type of attack, the fact that it very publicly affected a large organisation leaves many businesses with a false sense of security. After all, these blue-chip organisations have a lot of money and can afford to pay significant amounts for the retrieval of their data. Their situation is a far cry from smaller veterinary practices. And this, unfortunately, is the biggest lie we tell ourselves.

Digital issues generally leave many people breaking out in a cold sweat.

It’s complicated, many of us appreciate only the rudimentaries of how the systems we use on a daily basis actually work. And should the router fail or the server crash, many employees wouldn’t have the first clue how to resolve the issue, much less should anything more complex occur.

And yet so much of our day to day business relies on the ability to access records. As a Practice, all the information with regards to patients lies within the database – from the contact details to the patient history, to the details of treatment and medications. All the crucial information for on-going care resides within the computer. Also on the system will probably be all the details for staff, possibly including payment information, along with details of suppliers, order histories – and all accounting information. Imagine not being able to access any of it. Ever again.

Scary thought! And, unfortunately, cybercrime is on the rise at a startling rate. In fact, according to results released in August 2016 from research conducted by computer security firm Malwarebytes, 54{bda523e6e08aa325f5e8a237b52f61aaf9fd649a67da6117555a453fed867590} of surveyed businesses in the UK had been targeted.

Ransomware is a type of attack and one that has seen the most dramatic increase. This involves a hacker locking users out of their computers and demanding a ransom to secure the access to the system. It’s not just the big companies they target: in June 2016, a hair dressing salon in Cheltenham was targeted with ransomware. Locked out of their database with no way to access their clients’ records, the owners paid up the bitcoin equivalent of £1600. A single unit hairdressing salon – what would be the attraction in targeting such a small operation?

Because hackers know that generally, the smaller the business, the fewer resources they have to allocate to issues such as cyber protection. In short, the smaller a business is, the easier the target.

So, how can Practices avoid falling victim?

There are three basic steps to take:

  1. Back everything up to a separate server and make sure the system is automatically backed up regularly. Then, in the event of an attack, systems can be restored to the last point before the attack.
  2. Educate your staff – malicious code can be downloaded easily by unsuspecting members of staff opening seemingly innocent attachments – such as CVs! Only open attachments from sources you know!
  3. Ensure you have a firewall in place and all anti-virus and anti-spyware software is up to date. Have a proactive system in place to actively maintain and monitor your software – this will give you the best opportunity to quickly discover any intrusion attempts.

As a Practice, your database is the centre of everything you do. Don’t get caught out – it could cost you more than you’re willing to pay!


Further information and support for managing the cyber threat can be found here:

Cyber Security Guidance For Business:

Get Safe Online:

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