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Would your firm handle

  Cyber-attack! Would your firm handle it better than this?

  By Mark Ward

  Technology correspondent, BBC News

  7 August 2018

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  Image copyrightTOM HUMBERSTONE

  Image caption

  The day starts badly for IT administrator Tony Lewis when he reads an email from a hacker

  What's it like being the victim of a live cyber-attack? What should you do to protect your company from further damage? And should you pay that ransom demand? Technology of Business eavesdropped on a "war games" exercise hosted by cyber security firm Forcepoint that was based on lots of real-life experiences.

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  IT staff at fictional High Street optician Blink Wink's head office have been suckered by a phishing email. Someone clicked on a link to a spoof website because they thought the email looked legitimate. It wasn't. That was two months ago. Today, the proverbial hits the fan...

  Tuesday 08:30

  Tony Lewis, Blink Wink's IT administrator, starts his day clearing out the company's public email inbox of the usual junk and spam. One message stands out. His stomach lurches.

  "I have more where this came from. We will be in touch shortly with our demands," the text says below someone's name, credit card details and email address.

  Tony hopes it's a hoax, but can't take the risk. He swallows hard and calls the firm's security officer, Doug Hughes. Doug isn't impressed as he's on holiday in New York where it's 3:30am.

  "This better be good," he growls. Tony forwards the suspect email.

  "Have we validated the credit card number?" Doug asks, tension evident in his voice now. "Is it one of our customers?"

  "I don't know yet," admits Tony.

  Image copyrightTOM HUMBERSTONE

  Image caption

  Security officer Doug Hughes is having a day to forget...

  "Well, when did we get this?" Doug snaps.

  "Um... well... it seems we got it yesterday just after I'd left work, so I didn't notice it until this morning."

  "So we're at least 12 hours into this?"

  "Um, yeah," Tony mumbles sheepishly.

  Tuesday 13:30

  "We've got a second email," Tony tells Doug. "It's a ransom demand for £15,000 in the Litecoin crypto-currency. We have to pay by 22:00 BST or they'll delete all our customer records."

  "What?" shouts Doug. "I thought they only had one?"

  "Um, no. They claim to have them all."

  In a sweat, Doug calls Blink Wink's legal counsel Grace Bolton for advice. She has to dial in several times as her headset is malfunctioning. Her voice keeps cutting out during the conversation.

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  "This is obviously a potential breach," she says. "So do not respond to that message. I'll need to review existing legislation so we know where we stand."

  "What about the police?" asks Doug, his romantic city break now thoroughly ruined. "And the Information Commissioner? What about GDpR, who do we notify?"

  Tuesday 15:30

  Things are spiralling out of control for Blink Wink. The hackers have posted a tranche of customer names and credit card numbers on pastebin, a public website for sharing text and source code.

  Doug has now confirmed that the data is genuine.

  "Shouldn't we shut down the website?" asks Tony. "Then we'll limit the risk."

  Grace butts in. "Before we do that, who do we need to tell first? What's our data breach policy?"

  "I thought that came from legal," says Doug.

  "Aren't you the data protection officer?" Grace asks Tony.

  "Nope, not me..."

  Image copyrightTOM HUMBERSTONE

  Image caption

  No-one at Blink Wink seems very sure what they should be doing in this situation

  "God, is it me?" asks Doug despairingly. "Anyway, if we pull the website that'll just draw attention to ourselves won't it? Not sure that's the right thing to do."

  "Me neither," says Grace.

  Blink Wink's head of public relations, Sandra Ellis, has been looped in to the conversation.

  "This isn't looking good," she says rather obviously. "We've failed to protect our customers' private data. We could get really hammered for this."

  She points out that the firm has a "buy one get one free" contact lens promotion running at the moment.

  "We're driving people to the website right now. Are their details being stolen too?"

  "Very possibly," says Doug. "We've got to shut down the site - or parts of it anyway. And then we've got to decide whether to pay the ransom."

  Tuesday 17:00

  Sandra Ellis has drafted a public statement but doesn't propose releasing it to the media until people start asking questions.

  "We'll just say we are experiencing an incident and do it reactively," she says.

  "Not an incident - a breach," Doug advises.

  "No, don't use the word 'breach' - not yet anyway," chips in Grace, thinking of the legal ramifications. Tony bursts in on the conference call.

  "We've found some malware! We saw an email come in that went to quarantine so we checked it out and it had an attachment. That could be it."

  "You didn't click on it did you?" asks Doug, his day going from bad to worse.

  "Um... I just thought it would speed things up..."

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