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Cybersecurity: 'Be Paranoid - It helps'

15/12/2014 05:18 GMT | Updated 11/02/2015 10:59 GMT

Hackers. They're everywhere.

Well, in the news they seem to be....and doesn't Sony know it. It is the latest big company to be thrown into the media spotlight as a result of highly embarrassing data breaches, reported to have occurred in both its Pictures and PlayStation units.

So it seemed apt timing to be tackling the threats posed by cybercrime at the fourth annual Bloomberg LINK Enterprise Technology Summit in London last week. The key takeaway from our panel of industry experts was unanimous - "be paranoid".

As the discussion unfolded, the warnings came thick and fast. Assume the worst. Assume something has happened to your company's data - that's the only way to protect your company, your customers and your counterparties. That was the advice from security companies McAfee and Agari.

But don't just take the word of those selling security solutions- the customer agreed. Conor Kiernan, Chief Technology Officer of hedge fund Marshall Wace made clear it would be wrong to think only big institutions are at risk - just the Sonys, or the JPMorgans of this world. As Kiernan pointed out, anyone could be a target and it's up to each company to deepen its defences. Don't rely on just one security product, just one security provider, he told the audience - layer them. And look around you. Can your law firm explain its security provisions? Your PR firm? Your outsourced HR? The chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and it only takes one rogue email to cause chaos.

Clients are waking up to the risks and the conversation with executives is getting easier, said Agari's Patrick Peterson. The thing to remember is that your adversary is clever, so think differently when protecting your assets, he advised. But as every risk is tackled, another rears its ugly head - it's a game of whack-a-mole. The work is never done, said McAfee's Patty Hatter. She urged the audience to think of it more as a state of evolution as the risk environment is always changing. We now want to use our own devices for work as well as play and install ever more apps. And so the complexity increases.

I can't say it was the most uplifting of conversations - advocating a perpetual state of paranoia - but the upside is that we heard individuals are increasingly willing to learn and understand the threats. We're getting better at dodging the dodgy email. Who knows, the worst may never happen but the message from our panel was clear: don't ever count on it.

Caroline Hyde, European Business Correspondent, Bloomberg Television EMEA