Organisations around the world are today grappling with a new cyber attack that first came to light on Friday. The WannaCry virus exploits a vulnerability in the Windows operating systems and encrypts users files until they pay a ransom. There has been a lot of concern about the impact the malware will have on the healthcare sector, but businesses of any kind may be vulnerable.

"This has been like wildfire over the weekend in terms of organisations being hit," said Pat Moran, cyber leader with PwC. "For businesses, particularly in Ireland, waking up this morning it's really important that they're very vigilant about the types of emails that are coming in."

Mr Moran said that companies concerned about their vulnerability could start by seeing how up to date their software was - and whether or not they had applied a Microsoft patch that was issued in March. This alone might be enough to protect them from this particular exploit. "Having up-to-date patching and up-to-date anti-virus programmes in operation will prevent it from happening," he said. "But obviously the awareness that there is around end users of this outbreak is really important."


But the attack may bring many firms' unpreparedness into cold focus, with Mr Moran saying that a lot of businesses simply do not invest enough time or money into their security. At its core this is about having the right software and hardware in place, but it is also about ensuring that the organisation as a whole is trained in the right practices for a worst-case-scenario.

"The really important thing for organisations is to simulate this exercise; so rather than have it happen for the first time, get into the practice of being pre-emptive," he said, adding that staff should know exactly what to do when disaster hits. "Who do we inform? Who are the technology people within the organisation that need to be contacted instantly?," he said.

Mr Moran said that this attack highlights the need for a culture shift within companies as regards IT, which was traditionally seen as something that facilitated the business rather than played a central role within. He said businesses needed to think of cyber security in the same way as they might do health and safety or fraud, and treat it as just as serious a risk to their day to day operations. 

But no matter how prepared a company is, it is only as strong as its weakest link - which is often the staff itself. Mr Moran said that their phishing simulations have found that many staff still click on suspicious links and attachments despite the repeated advise to exercise caution and that staff need to have the message hammered home about the risks involved. "At the end of the day, you can have the best technology controls in place but if the end user isn't informed and isn't vigilant the outbreak can still happen," he said.

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MORNING BRIEFS - The pace of growth in the construction sector continued to rise in April, according to the latest Purchasing Managers Index from Ulster Bank. April's index had an overall reading of 61.3. This is up on the March figure and well above the 50 mark that separates growth from contraction. Housing activity continued to increase in the month, becoming the fastest growing area of the construction industry in April. Commercial activity saw a slow down in its pace of growth, though it remained in expansion mode. The civil engineering area also returned to growth following five months of contraction. The Ulster Bank PMI also showed a rise in new orders - suggesting a healthy pipeline of work - all of which has pushed up some input prices and led to a longer wait for the delivery of certain goods.

*** Two Irish colleges have retained their listings in the latest Financial Times Business Education Executive Education Rankings. The study compares business colleges around the world on their ability to customise programmes to business needs and the openness of their enrolment processes. The Irish Management Institute in Dublin was ranked 54th in the world in the customised programme rankings. That is down two places on 2016 but the college did see its marking improve in a number of areas. And the UCD Smurfit School of Business was ranked 48th in terms of its open enrolment process - which is an improvement of 21 places year on year. Overall, Iese Business School in Spain and IMD in Switzerland took the top two spots in both tables.

*** Pharmaceutical company Mallinckrodt is to create 45 high-skilled jobs at its new medical device engineering centre in Blanchardstown in Dublin. The jobs will be in a range of areas including product design, software development and electro-mechanical engineering. Mallinckrodt makes specialised medical devices and therapies and its new centre in Blanchardstown has been set up to consolidate its global device research and development activities. The company has invested €95m in the centre and create 120 new jobs as part of the move.