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Cybersecurity Hacks & Communication: Lessons learned from Wolter Kluwer




Wolters Kluwer is a global leader in software services with its programs CCH SureTax and CCH Axcess that support businesses ranging from healthcare, tax, accounting, audit, risk, compliance, finance, and legal sectors. Recognized as one of the “Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the world” in 150 countries, Wolters Kluwer is responsible for the successful flow of day-to-day operations of the top 100 accounting firms, 90% of top global banks, and 93% of Fortune 500 businesses. This means many businesses have entrusted sensitive data to this distinguished company.


 


But as we have discussed on this blog many times, cybersecurity attacks do not discriminate.


 


On May 6th, Wolters Kluwer experienced what is now being confirmed as a massive malware attack. Chief Information Officer Martin Wuite first observed server anomalies after his monitoring system alerted him early that morning. In an Accounting Today article, he asserted that “customers were alerted immediately as soon as we discovered the issue.” However, the alert available to customers was not delivered to them directly but instead was posted on Twitter. The tweet that was allegedly to alert customers to the attack stated “Software is down for a scheduled maintenance.” Far from a clear statement, frustration grew as customers and their companies ceased operation due to the outage and subsequent lack of access to their data.


 


This absence of clear information and updates from Wolters Kluwer caused many customers to panic, as evidenced by the many comments flooding social media channels, Reddit and articles that have been written since the breach. Wolters Kluwer’s yearly revenue was reported as $4.3 Billion EUR with approximately 19,000 employees. Despite the substantial size of their company (and resources arguably at their disposal), the malware attack seems to have exposed a huge flaw in their security protocol and communications strategy. Customers frustrated about the lack of communication and information are taking to social media to express their outrage.


 


Wolters Kluwer has now been added to the vast list of companies infiltrated with hostile malware. Considering that any device on a network is prone to viruses, it is of utmost importance to have security procedures in plan. Third party risk assessments are a weak link in many organizations and according to pymnts.com, 59% of the companies surveyed stated that they have experienced a data breach caused by their third parties. Based on their lack of public response and that customers are still reporting lack of access to their data, it would seem that Wolters Kluwer failed to have a relevant recovery plan in place for malware attacks or, even worse, didn’t execute their plan properly after an attack.


 


While the dust continues to settle on exactly what happened at Wolters Kluwer and information is disclosed as to who is responsible, what is clear is the importance of having a security plan in place for the protection of both the company and its clients. This plan must not only cover the protection against internal systems from malware as discussed in ‘The true cost of Ransomware” but also what communication protocol should be deployed if a breach occurs. It’s clear that the concern of Wolters Kluwer customers escalated into a panic when they received little to no information on the status of their accounts and information. As the provider of software services, communication is key in surviving the devastation of a successful attack.

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