The Lessons We Can Learn from a Recent Cyber-Attack on a Global Fashion Brand

CNS Group protected a global fashion brand from financial loss and damage to brand reputation after they became the victim of a sophisticated cyber-attack. Thanks to support from CNS Group, the brand avoided paying a ransom of £250,000. What lessons can we learn from this cyber-attack?

Not all cyber-attacks are created equal. In September 2018, CNS Group, a Six Degrees company, was contacted by a global fashion brand that had suffered from a damaging ransomware attack, just as their CCTV systems had gone offline and suspicious individuals attempted to gain access to one of the brand’s warehouses. A rapid response was needed to protect the brand from significant financial, operational and reputational damage.

What lessons can we learn from this cyber-attack, and what steps should your retail business take to protect itself?

A Sophisticated Cyber-Attack

A global fashion brand, with stores throughout the UK, Europe and beyond, was targeted by cybercriminals in a sophisticated, multi-faceted attack that demonstrates the security risks that today’s retail businesses face.

The origins of the attack can be dated back to early-2017, but it wasn’t until a Friday night in September 2018 that the full scale of the attackers’ intentions became clear. The cyber-attack was carried out across a number of mediums: a ransomware attack prevented users from accessing storage environments and backups; CCTV cameras in a London warehouse were taken offline for a period of time; and an individual presenting himself as a BT Openreach employee attempted to gain access to the warehouse facility.

The CNS Group consultant that first engaged with the brand believes that these separate components constituted a coordinated attack. “The nature of this job is that without speaking to the attacker themselves we’re never going to know absolutely for sure. We have to make an informed assessment of what’s happened. My assessment, from my experience, is that the coincidences are stark. It’s highly unusual and highly unexpected that both the ransomware incident and the physical social engineering happened at the same time. I personally suspect that it is part of the same attack.”

By engaging with CNS Group, the global fashion brand was able to protect its brand reputation and protect against direct financial loss in the short term. But what lessons should other retailers take from this cyber-attack?

Lessons for Retail Businesses

There are a number of lessons that retail businesses can learn from the sophisticated cyber-attack launched on the global fashion brand. Here are some of the key take homes:

  • Prevention is better than cure. When it comes to cyber-attacks, prevention is always better than cure. This is especially true of ransomware attacks, which have the potential to cause massive amounts of financial, operational and reputational damage. Most ransomware payloads are delivered by email; by providing cybersecurity training that teaches users what to look for and best practices when they receive a suspicious email, you reduce the risk of a ransomware attack being successful and damaging your business.
  • Attack vectors are changing. One of the things that makes this cyber-attack so interesting is the multiple angles from which the cybercriminals targeted the global fashion brand. Retailers driving an omni-channel strategy offering online purchasing, smartphone apps and Internet of Things integration need to be especially conscious of the potential attack vectors they are opening themselves and their customers up to.
  • Security requires a combination of people, processes and systems. Developing an appropriate cybersecurity posture requires more than just secure IT systems. The cyber-attack on the global fashion brand could have done much more damage if the security guard at the warehouse hadn’t followed the correct process and had given the individual presenting himself as a BT Openreach employee access to the site.
  • All retailers are targets, regardless of scale and brand perception. During CNS Group’s discussions with the global fashion brand, one of the interesting insights we gained was that the global fashion brand didn’t consider itself a potential target for such a sophisticated cyber-attack; they expected high end brands to be more prominent on cybercriminals’ radars. This cyber-attack proved to them that all retailers are targets, regardless of where they see themselves in the market.

Protect Yourself from Cyber-Attack

The cyber-attack on a global fashion brand demonstrates the risks that retail businesses face in today’s volatile cybersecurity environment. If you take the right steps to improve your security posture, you can significantly reduce the chances of becoming a victim of cybercrime.

Six Degrees can support you throughout your cybersecurity journey, from benchmarking your security maturity and representing you at board level, through to implementing and managing secure IT systems and processes.

Our experts have applied their decades of security compliance expertise to develop a web-based scorecard, Aegis, which helps you to navigate the complex security landscape and mitigate risks to your business.

Register for our webinar to find out how you can discover your Cyber Security Maturity Score.

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