According to the Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2023, 93% of cybersecurity leaders and 86% of business leaders think a far-reaching, catastrophic cyber event is at least somewhat likely in the next two years. Additionally, 43% of organizational leaders think it is likely that a cyberattack will affect their organization severely in the next two years.

With cybersecurity concerns on everyone’s mind, the topic received top billing at the recent World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos, Switzerland. At the meeting, Matthew Prince, the CEO of Cloudflare, emphasized the enormous amount of cyber insecurity around the world. He also predicted that 2023 will be a busy year in terms of cyberattacks. Other leaders echoed his sentiments and concerns throughout the meeting.

“There’s a gathering cyber storm,” Sadie Creese, a professor of cybersecurity at the University of Oxford, said during an interview at the meeting. “This storm is brewing, and it’s really hard to anticipate just how bad that will be.”

Leaders’ response to increasing threats

In addition to the increase in attacks, leaders are concerned that world conditions make a serious cyber event more likely. Not surprisingly, world unrest is a top reason for the increased focus on cybersecurity. The majority of organizations (74%) reported that global geopolitical instability has influenced their cyber strategy “moderately” or “substantially”. Additionally, their biggest concerns regarding cyberattacks are business continuity (67%) and reputational damage (65%).

The report found that leaders plan to take quick action in response to the predicted increase in threats. The top response is to strengthen controls on third parties with access to their environments (73%), with controlling access to data coming in second at 66%. Half of the leaders also plan to re-evaluate the countries that they do business with. When you do business with an organization or government with lacking policies and security, you inherit their risk into your organization.

Fighting the cyber storm

Reducing the risk of a debilitating and global attack requires working together and creating a targeted plan. Jürgen Stock, the secretary-general of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), said in Davos that there needs to be extensive collaboration across countries and corporations.

“This is a global threat, and it calls for a global response and enhanced and coordinated action,” Stock said. “The key to winning the battle against cyber crime is, of course, to work together to make it a priority across the geopolitical fault lines.”

Additionally, organizations, jurisdictions and governments must proactively take precautions to reduce their own risk. According to the report, the threat is not just to governments or enterprises. Any company — even a small business — that handles consumer data is at risk. Larger organizations that do business with smaller companies should evaluate their partners’ cyber risk. If a vendor experiences business disruption, that affects partners’ ability to serve their customers as well.

Collaboration within organizations, especially structured interactions, is also crucial. The report found that 56% of security leaders meet with their board at least monthly. However, respondents felt that more needs to be done to close the gap between business and security teams.

Resilience, not just security

Many leaders focus on security, meaning keeping their organization from becoming a victim of a cyberattack. However, cyberattacks are now a “when not if” event. In addition to reducing vulnerabilities, organizations and governments should ensure that they can quickly recover from an attack to get back to serving their customers or citizens.

“We need to accept that this is really about cyber resilience,” Creese shared at the meeting. “There is no such thing as a hundred percent security. It’s about resilience in the face of insecurity.”

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