BT and KPMG are warning businesses to avoid wasting money on cyber-security in the wake of high-profile global ransomware attacks WannaCry and Petya.

The organisations published a joint report – ‘The cyber security journey from denial to opportunity’ – offering practical advice on how best to manage security, and work it to its benefit.

It warns businesses against falling into dangerous traps as they deal with the complexity of securing a digital enterprise.

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These include being stuck in denial and worry phases at one end of the spectrum, and false confidence and hard lessons at the other end.

While the report stresses investment in technology such as firewalls and antivirus protection is essential at the start of the security journey, firms should avoid throwing money away on IT security products as a knee-jerk reaction.

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The latest technology can be viewed as the 'silver bullet to the problem'.

This common mistake can make firms ‘a target’, not just for cyber criminals, but also for over-zealous IT salespeople.

Mark Hughes, CEO of BT Security, said: “The global scale of the recent ransomware attacks showed the astonishing speed at which even the most unsophisticated of attacks can spread around the world.

“Many organisations could have avoided these attacks by maintaining better standards of cyber hygiene and getting the basics right.

“These global incidents remind us that every business today - from the smallest sole trader through to SMEs and large multinational corporations - needs to get to grips with managing the security of their IT estate, as well as their people and processes.

“Our report aims to help secure the digital enterprise by navigating businesses through their cyber security journey.

“By sharing valuable insights from senior IT security leaders, we hope to help businesses of all sizes transform cyber security from operational risk into a business opportunity.”

The report states that businesses must first assess their current controls against best practice, such as the guidance issued by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), to help identify any gaps and prioritise essential areas in which to invest.

Furthermore, everyone in the organisation, from the board down, must take responsibility for maintaining high standards of cyber hygiene.

Martin Tyley, partner and North West cyber security lead at KPMG, added “The recent spate of cyber-attacks is keeping cyber risk at the top of the business agenda, and as such investments are being made.

“The business community needs to avoid knee-jerk reactions as cyber security is a journey – not a one size fits all issue, and getting the basics like patching and back-ups right matters. It’s important to build a security culture, raise awareness amongst staff, and remember that security needs to enable business, not prevent it.

“Cyber threats are evolving and businesses face ruthless criminal entrepreneurs.

“The solution isn’t jargon ridden technology silver bullets but one that involves a community effort in a world where business boundaries are vanishing.

“With criminals getting increasingly creative about finding the weakest link, the CISOs of the future need to care about digital risk, help the business seize opportunities and build cyber resilience.”

Although cyber security issues are increasingly discussed at board level today, the report claims that those discussions are too infrequent and are treated as a separate and disconnected issue from broader operational risk. All too often, the issue of cyber security is not incorporated into the overarching business strategy.

The paper also argues that overly complex IT architecture can worsen security gaps. This is especially the case if the technology deployed is too difficult to use or there’s a lack of integration.

The report is available for download at http://www.globalservices.bt.com/uk/en/point-of-view/cyberjourney