As you are working on a key business proposal, a pop-up window suddenly appears on your computer screen. “Ooops, your files have been encrypted!” it warns in red, while two menacing timers start counting down.
You try to close it, but in vain. And restarting your device only turns up the same message — recover all your files with payment in virtual currency Bitcoin within the set time.
Panic sets in as you realise your presentation materials for a meeting the next day are locked up and there is no backup. Staff members sharing the company network are also reporting the same issue and you are at a loss about what to do next.
This scenario is very real. It was how ransomware worm “WannaCry” crippled an estimated 200,000 victims across 150 countries — including Singapore — in May 2017.
According to the Singapore Computer Emergency Response Team (SingCERT) from the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore (CSA), about 500 Singapore IPs were thought to have been compromised.
Reportedly affected were digital signage systems at Tiong Bahru Plaza and White Sands malls, as well as a display screen of a shop at Orchard Central.
Thankfully, the spread of the cyber security exploit was stopped before it affected Singapore's critical information infrastructure.
The weakest link
But WannaCry is but one of the many cyber security threats in the World Wide Web that could hit your business hard.
A 2017 study by information technology (IT) company Osterman Research found that one in three Singapore small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are hit by ransomware — with 20 per cent of those affected companies having to shut down as a result.
In addition, a 2018 Frost & Sullivan study revealed that the average economic loss for a mid-sized organisation was US$177,000 (S$242,106).
According to CSA, SMEs are especially vulnerable to ransomware and other cyber threats because they may not invest nor have the resources that bigger companies possess. This is despite the availability of solutions that SMEs can utilise to minimise their risks of cyber attacks.
Cyber threats can attack a business through malicious links sent through e-mails, phishing scams or digital impersonation, outdated virus software, or the lack of a secure Internet firewall.
Hackers can even break into a company’s IT systems to steal and leak sensitive information, which was what happened to SingHealth and its IT vendor Integrated Health Information Systems in June last year. The data of 1.5 million patients was stolen in what was dubbed Singapore’s worst cyber attack.
In fact, digital defence is so important that it was introduced as the sixth pillar in Singapore’s Total Defence strategy earlier in February. It was the first time a new pillar has been added since the national defence framework was launched in 1984.
Reportage of cyber security breaches is also a key concern and this requirement will be tabled in Parliament this year. Organisations that fail to report cyber security breaches on time could be fined up to $1 million under this new ruling.
Seamless and hassle-free protection
According to the Singapore Business Federation’s National Business Survey 2018/2019, companies see innovation as crucial across all aspects of business, including customer experience, operational processes, business models, and new products or services. In addition, the poll found that more than half of SMEs in Singapore have implemented business innovations.
This is encouraging news. However, in the pursuit of innovation, cyber security — a fundamental, yet crucial, technology that comprises firewalls, virus protection, applications to control the surfing of possibly malware-infected websites and so on — must not take a back seat. Such efforts are necessary for peace of mind, as they protect a company’s key digital assets.
One example is the firewall, which acts as the first line of defence against ransomware and other cyber threats. Think of it as the customs checkpoint at the airport, which controls both incoming and outgoing traffic within country. By controlling traffic at “checkpoints”, cyber threats will not be able to infiltrate the network through the ports that have already been closed off.
Thus, any device connected to the network behind the firewall is protected from malware attacks.
For businesses, setting up a firewall may seem time-consuming and complicated, but it is actually a seamless and hassle-free solution.
For instance, StarHub Business Fibre Broadband comes with free cloud-based firewall — Broadband Shield — to help safeguard your business against cyber threats.
Having the firewall sit in the cloud means that no physical device is needed. With StarHub Broadband Shield, configuration is simple. Its user-friendly and secured Customer Web Portal interface allows for easy and quick self-customised by the business owner at any time.
Businesses can have the flexibility to choose from four protection settings: OFF, Low, Medium, High — ranging from no restrictions to blocking access of specific service ports.
Call 1800-888-8888 to sign up for StarHub Business Fibre Broadband and enjoy the protection of its firewall, Broadband Shield — for free.