The number of cyber-attacks against UK companies is continually increasing and, last year alone, it was thought that the average annualized cost of cybercrime to large organizations in the UK was £4.1million per company, per year.
The Government’s National Security Strategy identified cyber security as a ‘tier 1’ risk to the UK, the same level of risk as terrorism and global instability. Whilst it’s clear to see that cyber security is being taken seriously at a national level, brands themselves are still not doing enough to protect assets at a base level. Tony Limrick, sales and marketing consultant at AFFIRMFIRST, says: 'Although it’s vital that brands put measures in place at a high level to protect sensitive customer data, it’s also important that they protect at a lower level too and currently, many brands are only focusing on that high-level protection.'
Images and logos can easily be taken either manually or by automated software. From the simple ‘right-click’ facility to take images, to sophisticated web-scrapers, which are freely available on the internet, criminals can download all the images on genuine sites to give them the collateral to build fake websites. At present, once an image has been removed from a genuine website, it is extremely difficult, and often impossible, even with current search tools, to find out who is using a brand’s images, where they are being used, and for what purpose, legitimate or otherwise.
Limrick says, 'Most websites can be ‘scraped’ within a matter of seconds, meaning cyber criminals can then easily replicate a website within minutes. There is virtually no control, no accountability and no warnings in place. This has got to be a dangerous situation for brands that value their integrity, not just to themselves but to their customers whom expect honest, up to date and secure information too. What’s concerning is that many of these fraudulent sites are extremely authentic looking and convincing lookalikes.'
This problem is particularly prominent for e-retailers, with fraudsters able to create a complete replica of a trusted site, simulating legitimate products. Consumers are then either left with knock off products - often poor quality or with questionable ingredients, for example - or nothing at all. Online brands should, therefore, be taking steps to secure their logos, product images and payment pages to ensure that they cannot be freely copied by criminals looking to sell, or not as the case may be, counterfeit products online.
Limrick adds, 'Brands that value their online presence (which has to be all brands) need to stop adopting a firefighting mentality and instead lead from the front to pre-emptively protect all of their intellectual property.'