Downtime Due to Poor Security Will Cost You Money

By: on January 30, 2018 in High Availability, Security

Sometimes when I speak or in some of my writings, I discuss the cost of downtime and how knowing that number can help you devise a better solution. That number is often company-, and sometimes industry-specific. For example, if processing credit cards, a company may have a financial hit from the customer if it cannot process a transaction either fast enough or, worst case, not at all. That adds up when you have even a five or ten minute outage. Processing a credit card transaction is not the same as loss of life in a hospital, hence needing to account for a system and its solution individually.

However, as of this week, if you have a company or work in the UK, things just got a whole lot more interesting. The UK government officially released a statement on January 28 which affects “critical industries”. Long story short: if you fall under the classification which seems to be limited right now to energy, transport, water, and health firms, you could be fined up to £17 million ($24 million in US Dollars at today’s exchange rate) in the event of a cyber attack taking you down. It was the WannaCry outages that precipitated the response (as an example, FedEx says WannaCry cost them about $300 million US Dollars). Remember this doozie from British Airways? Also covered under this new Network and Information Systems (NIS) Directive; it’s not just about security, but includes other things like power outages, hardware failure, and environmental hazards.

The NIS Directive is effective as of May 10, 2018, and is essentially based on this Consultation on the Security of Network and Information Systems Directive from August of 2017, and the outcome/latest is the document Security of Network and Information Systems: Analysis of responses to public consultation which was just published. I wouldn’t be surprised to see other places around the world adopt a similar stance. For some this may proverbially add insult to injury since everyone is already dealing with GDPR which goes into effect May of 2018 as well.

I’ve always talked about how security is a key component of availability. The UK government is literally putting their money where their mouth is. The NIS Directive isn’t meant to start with fines. The press release states the following:

Fines would be a last resort and will not apply to operators which have assessed the risks adequately, taken appropriate security measures and engaged with regulators but still suffered an attack.

That is actually good news – it’s not shoot, aim, fire. However, what that means is that you need to do the right steps to be prepared to avoid it if possible. That includes things like patching servers and having a strategy to do so in a timely manner is going to matter. Things like the recent Spectre/Meltown chip flaws (which I put everything you need to know as it relates to SQL Server in one place here) will not be a “kick the can down the road” exercise. To that point, I’m still seeing people saing they don’t need to worry about patching for Spectre and Meltdown. YOU DO. Yes, it sucks you may see a performance hit, but would you rather be down instead? I do not think so. I’d rather be slower and up than down and out.

It is always better to be proactive than reactive, and SQLHA can certainly help you assess where you are. We can help address and mitigate issues related to availablity and disaster recovery (which would help with things like accounting for power outages and hardware failure), but also devise realistic patching strategies that work. Max and I have done these types of things for some of the largest systems in the world over the course of our careers. It doesn’t matter if you are a small company or one of the biggest in the world – we’re happy to help! Just reach out.

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