Closing the Net on cyber criminals

Already troubled ENRC's computer systems were hacked this week after the theft of a laptop. The incident underlines the need for businesses large and small to beef up security

It goes from bad to worse for Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC), a miner once memorably dubbed "more Soviet than City" by an ousted independent director. The group, currently battling to fend off a takeover proposal from rival miner Kazakhmys and its own billionaire founders, yesterday became one of the highest-profile businesses to publicly admit it had been hacked.

The theft of a laptop during a burglary was followed by an "intrusion" into the group's systems. In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, the company said it was upgrading security and had offered employees affected by the raid identity protection.

The hack comes just days after the Federation of Small Businesses warned that the cost of cyber crime to its 200,000 members was running at almost £800m annually, or £3,750 for every small business. A startling 41 per cent of the organisation's member companies have become victims of some form of cyber crime.

It appears the ENRC issue is a relatively straightforward crime incident, as opposed to something potentially more sinister. The stock market announcement is understood to have been motivated by a desire to be seen as whiter than white, given that the company is in the midst of a takeover battle while also facing an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

All the same, experts warn that a company like ENRC is just the sort of enterprise that will be in the sights of more dangerous parties than, to coin a phrase, ordinary decent (cyber) criminals.

Alex Fidgen, director at MWR InfoSecurity, which helps companies combat cyber attacks, says: "ENRC specialises in mining and producing the commodities underpinning the growth of developing countries. It is therefore of huge interest to countries like China and India, for example. The fact is, they are exactly the sort of company that would be the prime target for an attack."

State-sponsored cyber-snooping, and more aggressive activities, are on the rise, and are worrying the governments of developed, Western economies, including the British Government. Its own figures show that 93 per cent of large corporations and 76 per cent of small ones have reported a cyber breach in the past year. On average, more than 33,000 malicious emails are blocked by the Government Secure intranet (GSi) every month. These are likely to contain – or link to – sophisticated malware. A far greater number of malicious, but less sophisticated emails, it says, and spam is blocked each month.

The Strategic Defence and Security Review allocated £650m over four years to establish a Cyber Security Programme to combat the problem. It seems well-timed. It was reported this week that a notorious Chinese centre working for the People's Liberation Army was back in business after a three-month lull.

China has always denied involvement in such activities but Unit 61398, whose well-guarded headquarters are located on the edge of Shanghai, has become a symbol of the country's cyber-might.

But it's not just China. Mr Fidgen explains: "State-sponsored cyber espionage is now going to be part of the landscape, and so should be expected. Every government with the capacity will be trying to glean information for economic or other purposes. China is being tarred of a lot of it but if you look at South Korea, its banking network was disabled by the North. The Israelis have used it against Iran. And Iran itself has used it too."

In the latter's case, there is evidence linking it to a cyber attack on the Saudi oil company Aramco in which more than 30,000 computers were compromised or affected by a "spear-phishing" attack last year.

Mr Fidgen says: "This is the new landscape. Instead of warfare, it is much easier to extract information to gain economic advantage today, where there is almost no recourse to any authority, the effects of theft are not always immediately apparent, there is no legal system to deal with it, and no one wants to talk about it. Fascinatingly, the direct effect of attacks is a loss of corporation tax revenues."

This is part of the motivation for the UK Government's concern. But whether it is government, trade bodies or companies that work in the field, the message to businesses is the same: "Take it seriously."

Mike Cherry, national policy chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, says: "Cyber crime, whether targeted at a multinational corporation or a small business with only a handful of employees, has the potential to cost not only thousands of pounds but the jobs and security of whole communities.

"Whatever the size of a firm, businesses have to take the threat of hacking and theft seriously and protect themselves adequately from crime. Clear action from the Government and the wider public sector will only work if businesses, whatever their size, proactively protect themselves from fraud and online crime."

The incident reported yesterday by ENRC may "only" have involved a laptop, resulting in the need to offer protection to employees who might have been put at risk of identity theft as a result. But tomorrow's follow-up could be much more serious, and come with far reaching and deeply damaging consequences.

Suggested Topics
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Life and Style
health
Arts and Entertainment
Pink Floyd on stage at Live 8 in 2005. From left to right: David Gilmour, Roger Waters, Nick Mason and Rick Wright
music New album The Endless River set to overtake boyband for most pre-ordered of all-time
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

IT Systems Business Analyst - Watford - £28k + bonus + benefits

£24000 - £28000 per annum + bonus & benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Business Syste...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £Competitive: SThree: SThree Group and have be...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals