This latest piece of research on the impact of cyber attacks and their cost to business will surprise many. The figure of £200 billion is one of the largest yet from any piece of research and could even be higher. According to the World Bank figures for 2014 in GDP terms £200 billion is the equivalent of the 53rd largest economy in the world more than New Zealand, Romania and Hungary.
The risk of cyber attacks
Cyber attacks have long since ceased to be about inquisitive individuals testing their skills against corporate security or conspiracy theorists looking for possible information on UFOs. The current wave of attacks are sponsored either by nation states or highly effective international criminal gangs. In both cases they are after Intellectual Property, personal details and access to bank details.
Most governments now rate cyber attacks as a major threat alongside natural disasters, international terrorism and military invasion. In the past few months the US has made it clear that it reserves the right to launch retaliatory attacks on nation states who continue to attack its cyber infrastructure and has invested billions of dollars in building out its own cyber teams.
Not all cyber attacks are criminal. There has been a steady rise in cyber hacktivism where groups attack websites to protest a cause be that military action, the behaviour of governments or the way that a large corporate are seen to have acted.
One thing that the report highlights that should send shockwaves through CEOs and the whole C-Suite is that: “half of firms [surveyed] are putting themselves in the firing line with no comprehensive strategy to prevent digital crime.”
This is not only a serious business risk but one that could easily be termed a failure of governance. Regulators are tightening the net around the protection of data, privacy and in particular personally identifiable information (PII). In future, it is likely to be a legal requirement around the globe for companies to disclose when they have had a breach and if the cause is shown to be a failure of governance, board level executives are increasingly likely to find themselves at risk of being fined and fired.
(Next: How did they arrive at £200 billion?)