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The rapidly rising threat keeping global CEOs up at night

Work colleague views computer in conference room at night
CEOs around the world have named this as the biggest threat to their organisation for the next three years. (Source: Getty)

Leaders around the world now view cyber security risks as the greatest threat to their organisations over the next three years.

The issue has catapulted to first place from fifth place in the span of six months according to KPMG’s latest 2021 CEO Outlook Pulse Survey of 500 CEOs across 11 countries, signalling the escalating concerns over cyber security weaknesses.

Meanwhile, tax risk – which was ninth on the list in August 2020 – is now the second-biggest risk as perceived by global CEOs, tied with regulatory risk, which was eighth on the list.

KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook Pulse Survey. (Source: KPMG)
KPMG 2021 CEO Outlook Pulse Survey. (Source: KPMG)

Among Australian CEOs, environment/climate risk was named as a joint top risk alongside cyber security.

In a reflection of growing security concerns, more than half of CEOs (52 per cent) expect to spend more on data security.

According to the study, the pandemic has forced the acceleration of business’ digital transformation.

“As companies move from crisis mode and attempt to normalise operations, CEOs are shifting their focus to cyber security issues and differentiating themselves through their digital connectivity with customers,” the report said.

KPMG’s report comes just months after the World Economic Forum’s 16th edition of the Global Risks 2021 report, named cyber security failures as the biggest threat to the world in the next two years.

“Business, government and household cyber security infrastructure and/or measures are outstripped or rendered obsolete by increasingly sophisticated and frequent cybercrimes, resulting in economic disruption, financial loss, geopolitical tensions and/ or social instability,” the WEF report said.

Information technology expert Andre Conti warned Australian business leaders that cyber security incidents were a matter of ‘when, not if’.

“Any organisation around the world, I would say, is always at the mercy of something happening to them,” he told Yahoo Finance.

“It’s not ‘if’ it’s going to happen – it’s more ‘when’ it’s going to happen,” Conti said. “Because 100 per cent security doesn’t exist.”

Organisations will need to implement safeguards in place to prevent breaches, as well as have strong response plans, Conti warned.

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