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Cyber security: do CEOs need to step up?

08 Dec 15

Despite the risks associated with cyber breaches less than half (49%) of CEOs around the world are fully prepared for a future cyber event, according to a new study from KPMG International.

The United States were a notable exception, where nearly nine in ten (87%) CEOs say their companies are well prepared. On the contrary, Asia Pacific CEOs were more cautious with 32% saying they aren’t where they need to be.

According to the study, one out of five CEOs indicated that information security is the risk they are most concerned about.

“Collectively we sleepwalked into a position of vulnerability when it comes to cyber,” says Philip Whitmore, head of cyber security at KPMG New Zealand.

“This combination of lack of preparedness and concern, from those organisations that are among the best equipped to deal with risks of this magnitude, clearly illustrates cyber security challenges remain severely unaddressed,” he says.

Security also a strategic opportunity to connect with customers

The survey revealed that CEOs are grappling with escalating competitive pressures. In particular are concerns about the loyalty of their customers, keeping pace with new technologies and the relevance of their product or service in the next there years (86, 72 and 66% respectively).

“The most innovative companies have recognised that cyber security is a customer experience and revenue opportunity, not just a risk that needs to be managed or a line item in the budget,” says Whitmore.

“They are finding ways to turn cyber preparedness into a competitive advantage.”

A perfect storm for cyber talent on the horizon

According to Whitmore, CEOs who said they were not prepared for a future cyber event are more likely to be increasing their headcount over the next three years, and half of them expect skills gaps to worsen over the same period.

There is also a question of who is ultimately responsible for cyber security within the organisation, he says. In the survey, four out of ten CEOs say they expect the role of the CIO will become more important in the years ahead, but many CIOs are neither part of the C-suite inner circle nor are they respected as business partners.

Other key findings:

• Cybersecurity was seen as being the issue having the biggest impact on their company for nearly a third of the CEOs (29%).

• Yet only half of the respondents had appointed a cyber security executive or team and two in ten (21%) with no plans to do so.

• Only 37% have upgraded current technologies.

“Many companies that suffer serious breaches think they were adequately prepared,” says Whitmore. “The root cause is often a failure of imagination. A failure to imagine the sophistication and persistence of their attackers.”

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