Cyber security tops priority list for business leaders

The rapid pace of digital transformation due to the COVID-19 pandemic – which saw businesses move services online, supply chains disrupted and employees work from home – has pushed cyber security to the top of the agenda for UK CEOs.

91% of UK CEOs are concerned about the threat of cyber security risks, according to PwC’s 24th Annual CEO Survey. This is the highest figure recorded since CEOs were first asked about cyber threats in the survey, and an increase on last year’s figure of 80%. It is also higher than this year’s global figure of 85%.

Chris Gaines, cyber security leader at PwC UK, said: “As the criticality of technology has increased over the past year, so have UK CEOs’ fears of cyber security threats. This heightened concern is understandable as the stakes are so much higher than they were 12 months ago. Businesses have become more aware of how reliant on technology they are for their very survival, and as such the risk of cyber security attacks naturally weighs more heavily on their minds.”

He added that the technological changes implemented over the past 12 months have not only been across businesses, but also society, with many implemented in haste. “Risk averse organisations who in different times may have taken years to plan for increased remote working made the change overnight. Organisations must now effectively, securely embed such changes while continuing to evolve and innovate.”

When asked which top three threats are specifically factored into their strategic risk management activities, ‘cyber threats’ was the most selected by UK CEOs and chosen by 75% of them. This was ahead of ‘pandemics and other health crises’ (62%), and ‘uncertain economic growth’ (57%).

In terms of future planning, 48% of UK CEOs are ‘extremely concerned’ (up from 42% last year) about the risk of cyber threats to their business growth prospects. In addition, as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, 67% of UK CEOs plan to increase long-term investment in cybersecurity and data privacy over the next three years, with 24% of UK CEOs saying they will significantly increase long-term investments.

Gaines said: “Increasing investment in cyber defences is only part of the approach CEOs should be taking. With every area of every organisation now more reliant on technology, and more reliant upon the technology of suppliers and other organisations within their ecosystem, business leaders need to appreciate the role they must play in securing their organisation.”

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