Financial services are one of the most legislated sectors in the UK, and rightfully so with customer pensions, savings and investments on the line. Yet, a recent analysis from law firm, RPC reveals that UK financial services firms reported more than a threefold increase in the number of cyber security breaches to the Information Commissions Office (ICO) in 2023 than the previous year.
Cyber breaches in the financial services sector
During the first half of 2023, 640 cyber security breaches were reported to the ICO, a rise from 187 for the first half of 2022. The pensions sector was the most affected by the rise in breaches, increasing from six cases in 2021/22 to 246 in 2022/23.
It is perhaps not surprising that hackers would specifically target pension schemes given their huge value. But the question is, are UK financial services and the wider business community ready for the huge potential shifts in future cyber breaches that could be manipulated by the ever-growing ability of AI.
Could AI increase cyber threats on UK businesses further?
UK businesses are facing a Catch-22 when it comes to the potential vs effects of AI. On the one hand, a recent study from McKinsey & Company estimated that global firms could reap a 4.4 trillion benefit from AI in productivity savings. Yet, on the other side, British national security officials are now warning organisations to take care when integrating AI into their systems due to their susceptibility to manipulation by cyber criminals. It is no wonder then that that business leaders have reported that AI is a key area for concern, while, at the same time, also becoming the number one area for digital transformation investment.
While there is a lot of talk within the Government on the measures and guidelines that should be put in place with the growing capability of AI, its potential effects and its capacity for manipulation by criminals, there is a sense that if significant measures are not put in place soon, the horse could have already bolted.
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How can companies protect themselves from cyber threats while still benefiting from AI?
With the current lack of guidance and knowledge available to businesses when it comes to AI implementation and protection from cyber threats, businesses will need to impose their own measures, and soon. The best approach for this is to work with an IT specialist that can advise on your specific business needs. This may include:
- Reviewing your current risk factors when it comes to cyber security and putting in place comprehensive measures to mitigate these threats
- Reviewing any AI tech before instillation to assess its safety, potential impact and risk factors
- Improving IT monitoring systems and reporting
- Implementing effective policies and procedures
- Conducting regular staff training
- Regular audits and reviews to keep up with technological changes
Only a comprehensive approach to the current and oncoming cyber threats will ensure a business’s financial and operational security into the age of AI.
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