New research by data security company Clearswift has shown that the recent large GDPR fines against enterprise giants in the UK have had a ripple effect on board level involvement and spending plans in relation to cyber security within UK financial firms.

The research, which surveyed senior business decision makers within enterprise financial organisations in the UK, highlighted the Information Commission Officer’s (ICO) recent judgements, £183M proposed fine for BA and £99M proposed fine for Marriott, as a key turning point in addressing their own cyber security.

Almost one third of companies (32%) referenced recent GDPR fines against British Airways and Marriott International as being the primary reason for an increase in board level involvement and/or provision for IT security spending. 

“It has been over a year since GDPR has been enforced and organisations were wondering if there were any teeth behind the regulations,” said Dr Guy Bunker, CTO at Clearswift.

“These fines have clearly sent shockwaves into the industry and are now serving as a blueprint for how theICO will handle cases of this nature. The board is now sitting up and taking notice of GDPR compliance and the role cyber security plays in it. However, it is not just about taking notice, it is the need to invest to maximise their ability to keep the organisation safe from new threats. Revisiting their ‘defence in depth’ strategy to augment with enhanced security solutions including both the boundary and the cloud, and implementing more stringent policies is critical to securing the critical information they hold within the organisation.”

Other key threats identified by respondents included supply chain threats (25%), where attackers seek to damage an organisation by targeting less-secure elements in the supply network. Ransomware attacks (24%), such as the infamous WannaCry attack in 2017, where malicious software denies access to a computer system or critical data until a ransom is paid were also high up the list.

Interestingly, when looking solely at companies with over 5,000 employees, fear of Ransomware was perceived to be the key reason why firms are bolstering their spending. This isn’t surprising when you consider firms infected with ransomware have, in some cases, ended up reverting to pen and paper while the outbreak was dealt with.

When asked about spending levels, the majority of financial businesses would like to see an increase in cyber security investment (73%) with almost one in five (17%) UK firms surveyed reporting that their budgets currently stood ‘well below the adequate level’. Fortunately, this figure dropped dramatically (to 5%) when looking at firms with over 5,000 employees, a possible sign that larger firms have already made additional investment to deal with the ever-changing cyber threatscape.

Bunker also said: “Increasing investment in the latest data loss prevention solutions will help mitigate inadvertent and malicious data loss risks. Furthermore, with GDPR, organisations need to be aware that receiving unauthorised data can also cause issues.”