UK retail sales exceed £150bn a year, and the UK leads the world in e-commerce spending per head of population. In a sector that is increasingly digital – and where brands are built on consumer trust – good cyber security is vital. However, figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) reveal fraud incidents rose 12 per cent last year, while retail businesses are reporting a rising tide of cyber attacks.

At a recent forum at Freshfields’ London offices, co-hosted with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, BRC members joined the firm’s cyber lawyers and government representatives to discuss the challenges facing the industry. The discussion topics include the following:

The British government’s commitment to cyber resilience. Ed Vaizey MP, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy, reiterated that government efforts to improve cyber security can only succeed in partnership with business.

The government schemes that are resonating in the boardroom. Delegates discussed which of the government’s initiatives had helped raise awareness at board level and how they had driven behavioural change in their organisations.

Why retailers are particularly at risk of a cyber attack. The forum discussed the issues around the types of threat actor, the central role of personal data, and the need for contingency planning and business continuity.

How businesses will be affected by the forthcoming EU Data Protection Regulation and the proposed EU Network and Information Security Directive

The emerging tools and tactics to help companies manage cyber risk. Appropriate information-sharing; the growing market for cyber insurance; the need for multi-disciplinary and practical risk management (legal, security, PR, business leadership) across the company and with external advisers. That risk management should include suitable queries during M&A processes and, separately, planning for disclosures and litigation risk once a cyber incident occurs.