Four in Five US CEOs Fear Cyber Threats Can Ruin Business Forecasts

Some 80% of US CEOs worry cyber threats might hurt their companies’ growth, according to a report by big four accountancy firm PwC.

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Concerns about cyber threats have shot up most compared to the previous year and the perceived risk will only increase as attacks on companies multiply. The speed of technological change and the availability of key skills have also seen a marked rise in concern from CEOs, the report shows.

Some 23% of US technology executives say their company has suffered a security breach in the past 12 months and they plan to spend more on IT security in the next year, according to HOTforSecurity. Three-quarters of technology executives expect their companies to spend 1 to 5 percent of their revenue on IT security over the next 12 months, with the average consolidated total cost of a data breach rising 23% since 2013, to $3.8 million.

“Cyber security has reached an important place on the CEOs agenda, particularly given the series of high-profile hacks over the past year,” the report authors say. “With vast quantities of their information readily accessible around the clock, customers expect a certain amount of privacy and confidentiality. How companies honor this will mean much for their ability to engage with and retain customers, and build brand value.”

In a 2015 PwC poll of consumers, 24% said their trust in companies’ ability to protect their personal data had declined over the past 12 months. The number of cyber security incidents detected soared almost 50% in the past year to 42.8 million, leaving no industry untargeted, with many incurring significant costs. As a result, concerns about cyber security have seen the biggest increase of all potential threats business leaders fear, with 61% of CEOs globally citing concerns, from 48% a year ago.

CEOs see cyber security technologies as one of the three most strategically important types of digital technology for their organization, the report finds, with 53% saying it’s ‘very important’ strategically.

“The real benefit of cyber security isn’t just in defending value. It’s about creating new value by enabling the trust that’s so central to doing business today. Cloud technology, for example, has elevated security concerns; the key to demonstrating the Cloud’s true value is to make it really secure. It’s encouraging, then, to see that the requisite shift in thinking seems to be underway, with 72% of CEOs seeing digital technologies as creating value in the area of digital trust,” the authors write.

CEOs are also concerned about the ability of new entrants to exploit weaknesses in technological capabilities: 32% name technology as the sector from which significant competitors are emerging, almost double those who name any other sector.

PwC’s CEO survey 2015 conducted 1,322 interviews with CEOs in 77 countries.

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