Headlines relentlessly bellow the latest data breach incidents, web blogs bulge with cyber security strategies and warnings, and cyber breach insurance is now a ‘thing.’ Yet, the possibility of a virtual attack on data and networks still holds a not-quite-real ‘monster under the bed’ status for many organizations; a ‘it can’t happen to us’ mentality prevails.

But a recent study on global threats revealed findings to shatter that mindset. Every year since 2006, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has conducted a report exploring and ranking mankind’s top potentially disastrous global risks. For 2019, the WEF nominated cyber attacks and data breaches among the top five. This essentially puts cyber crime in league with natural disasters and terrorists.

“…research pointed to the potential uses of artificial intelligence to engineer more potent cyberattacks.” 1

Now, many may be thinking that the “global risks,” they must be citing are attack threats perpetrated by espionage players upon critical national and state government facilities, infrastructure management systems, or other societal and economic support systems; absolving that cyber threats against businesses do not warrant top catastrophic global ranking. Though it is true that high-level nation-state cyber assaults factored well into the results, an escalation of data breaches and hacking incidents overall solidified the status.

“Cyber vulnerabilities can come from unexpected directions, as shown in 2018 by the Meltdown and Spectre threats, which involved weaknesses in computer hardware rather than software.” 1

Our world is so interconnected, so reliant on technology and the functions it affords our day-to-day and business operations, that a cyber hit on one lone enterprise can easily render into a multiple-victim assault; an attack on a shipping company, for instance, can jeopardize hundreds of businesses and their customers.

And what if that company delivers critical products, such as medical supplies or food? Even infiltrating a business with seemingly less impact on society can still wreak chaos if carried out on a large or calculated scale. Suppose a business that supplies printing paper to a government agency suffers a cyber sabotage? They are now an assailant’s potential gateway into that government entity’s system. Our communities, economies, and connected businesses operate as a delicate domino formation…when one piece falters, many can fall with it.

“Cybersecurity strategies need to cover the full spectrum of possible attacks and events that could cause a crippling blow to a company’s operations.”1

Though nation-state attack scenarios such a strike on a nation’s power grid would directly garner catastrophic economic and societal order effects, businesses should realize their own vulnerabilities and ‘gateway’ potential into large-scale, more destructive agendas.

The global risk report concludes that cyber attacks may inflict more overall damage than infectious diseases and man-made disasters, and just slightly less than natural disasters. With this reality, organizations should spare no resources in establishing and maintaining formidable cyber security: learn all they can about their cyber adversaries, understand their own vulnerabilities, explore up-to-date cyber defenses, educate employees and institute a cyber security culture, and relentlessly pursue all-around cyber security best practices…no matter what the size or influence of your organization.

Want to remain resilient and protect your bottom line? Visit our website or contact an Assurance certified business continuity professional today. We will be happy to help.

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1. The Global Risks Report 2019, World Economic Forum, 2019

Topics: Cyber Security

Angie Longacre

Written by Angie Longacre

As a writer for Assurance Software, Angie devotes her craft to promoting business continuity and disaster recovery awareness, and trumpeting Assurance Software’s invaluable benefits for both. When she’s not commanding the keyboard, you can find her outside for a run, searching for her next antique treasure, or lost in a good book.

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