Bondgate IT is advising the North East’s businesses to protect their critical information from viruses and ransomware attacks by using a third-party Office 365 back-up solution.

With instances of phishing and malware attacks on the increase, particularly related to COVID-19, Office 365 presents a prime target for cyber criminals.

The cloud-based subscription software has been more widely used since the coronavirus lockdown when many businesses asked employees to work from home – exposing gaps in IT security.

Garry Brown, managing director of Darlington-based Bondgate IT says that whilst Office 365 provides basic time-limited protection, businesses must be able to quickly retrieve data should the worst happen as, contrary to general understanding,  Microsoft do not backup your Office 365 email and file data log term.

He added: “Many companies who suffer ransomware attacks suffer several days without access to their files, in some cases much longer periods, which can be damaging both financially and to a firm’s hard-earned reputation.

“A third-party back up system is a key part of a multi-layered IT security strategy designed to keep businesses working. This avoids expensive downtime, lost sales and the cost of mitigating the wide-ranging effects of such cyberattacks.”

As well as offering recovery from malicious attacks, backing up business-critical data also safeguards against accidental deletion, data corruption, internal security threats and ensures companies can meet legal and compliance requirements.

The government’s fourth annual 2020 Cyber Security Breaches Survey found that 78 per cent of businesses and 75 per cent of charities now rate cyber security as a high priority – with 32 per cent of businesses and 22 per cent of charities identifying breaches or attacks earlier this year.

It identifies the most common attacks as: phishing emails (experienced by 80 per cent of businesses and 81 per cent of charities) online impersonations of organisations (28 per cent and 20 per cent), viruses or other malware, including ransomware (27 per cent and 18 per cent).

Garry said: “It’s positive that organisations are recognising the growing threat posed by hackers and cyber criminals. However, such attacks are increasingly now being targeted at businesses, as they offer the greatest financial rewards, and they are growing in sophistication.

“It’s not only about educating your workforce but also ensuring businesses have a robust IT security strategy in place, and that includes a trusted Office 365 back up.”