Combatting Cyber Risk: A Blueprint for Leaders

The evolving cyber threat landscape demands urgent attention from business leaders.

Cyber security has been climbing the business priority ladder for years but with the rise of AI and other advanced technologies, organisations are facing escalating risks.

In 2023, CrowdStrike observed a 60% year-over-year increase in the number of interactive intrusion campaigns, with a 73% increase in the second half compared to 2022. In this ever-evolving digital landscape, leaders need to be sure they’re doing enough when it comes to protecting their business. According to our own Techtonic States research, nearly three-quarters of business leaders (74%) believe technological advances are intensifying cyber risks and generating new forms of cybercrime. In fact, they identify cyber risk – including cyber fraud, tech espionage, and ransomware attacks – as one of the biggest challenges to businesses over the next three years, after the cost of capital and economic downturn.

This evolving threat landscape demands urgent attention from business leaders. We need to move beyond treating cyber security as a checkbox item and start adopting a proactive and comprehensive approach to safeguarding digital assets.

Cyber Risk: Where to focus
Any cyber security strategy should start with one fundamental business question – what are my most valuable digital assets? For many leaders, this is their rich pool of data. For years data has been the currency of business – but never has this been more true than today as data fuels AI to drive competitive advantage. Data collection has exploded and a cloud first approach means provisioning and de-provisioning systems and applications in real time. Organisations without a robust data management system in place are leaving themselves vulnerable. And with the exponential growth in the amount of data collected from consumers, users, and business partners, protecting this crucial asset has become top of mind for all organisations.

Public safety is an additional concern, with critical infrastructure becoming a higher value target for threat actors. Whether it’s sensitive client data, internal IP or critical infrastructure, risk management solutions must revolve around safeguarding these pivotal assets. The healthcare industry continues to be targeted as threat actors take advantage of legacy IT infrastructure, disrupt services, and attempt to convert outages for financial gain. Public sector in general with the amount of sensitive data, critical infrastructure, and general services for the public at large, is a prime target for threat actors. As geopolitical conflicts continue, state sponsored attacks on the public sector will continue to increase.

Cyber-attacks have also become much easier to perpetrate. Threat actors share tradecraft, offer ransomware as a service, and collaborate to fuel exploits. The focus is no longer solely on large enterprises; now any and all businesses are at risk of opportunistic attacks. No one is immune. The top two attacks remain centred around financial gain both for e-crime gangs and state sponsored actors. Many organisations (and individuals) have fallen victim to payment fraud through account take-over using stolen credentials, and invoice payment fraud or fraudulent transfers achieved through impersonation or account take-over. Ransomware is prevalent and continues to increase. 

Aligning growth strategies with cyber risk management
For the innovative business, it’s critical to strike the balance between technological innovation and the management of cyber risks. My advice is that cybersecurity must be woven into their tech strategy and not seen as an add-on. As organisations rush to keep up with tech advancements and an ever-faster time to market, cyber needs to have a seat at the table from the ideation stage.

With a joined up approach, cybersecurity becomes an enabler, helping businesses thrive through optimising processes, speeding time to market and enabling efficiency in supply chains. As a true business partner, the cyber team can support sustainable business growth and scale alongside evolving technology strategies. From sophisticated threat detection algorithms powered by AI and machine learning to robust encryption techniques and biometric authentication tools, leveraging cutting-edge tech is a crucial cyber defence mechanism, but so is tight integration of security teams and IT teams to foster collaboration, awareness, and a stronger security posture.

Adopting a holistic approach to cyber
While many large enterprises already have robust cyber security programs in place, with formalised committees and processes, mid-market and mid-enterprise organisations are often just beginning this journey. In fact, the World Economic Forum Global Cybersecurity Outlook published earlier this year reported that more than twice as many SMEs as the largest organisations say they lack the cyber resilience to meet their critical operational requirements

And cyber security is not solely a concern within the walls of your business. Leaders must evaluate the risks across their entire supply chain, from strategic partners to third-party vendors, and even clients. In order to navigate these choppy waters, leaders need a comprehensive grasp of evolving threats, a proactive adoption of technological advancements, and seamless integration of cyber security into growth strategies. For many businesses, this may involve enlisting external experts.

Our cybersecurity specialists are committed to guiding businesses in developing effective cyber security programs and fostering a culture of awareness and readiness for both current challenges and future threats. In this ongoing cyber battle, vigilance and proactivity stand as our strongest allies.

This article was written by Rocco Galletto, Leader, Global Cyber Practice, BDO Canada

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