WEF: Developed nations rank cyber attacks as the top business risk

  • Liam Tung (CSO Online)
  • 13 November, 2018 02:53

With WannaCry and NotPetya still a fresh memory, business executives in Europe and North America now consider cyber attacks the biggest threat to doing business. 

That’s according to the World Economic Forum’s new Regional Risks for Doing Business report, which is based on the opinions of 12,000 business people across 140 economies.

Across the world, execs saw cyber attacks as the fifth major threat to doing business, up from eighth in last year’s survey. Globally the top top three perceived risks this year are unemployment, national governance failure, and energy price shocks. 

However, 19 countries ranked cyber attacks as the top risk, and most of these countries were advanced economies. Of the 19, 14 are European, including the UK, Sweden, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Latvia, Finland, Estonia, Denmark. 

Outside of Europe, the US, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates also ranked cyber attacks the top threat.  

The report notes that 2017 is likely to be a “watershed” moment for cyber security due to the massive WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware attacks.   

The NotPetya ransomware-disguised attack in June collectively cost several global companies over a $1 billion. Danish shipping giant, Maersk, US drug maker, Merck, and FedEx via its European TNT Express subsidiary each reported damages of around $300 million. The US, UK and Australia earlier this year blamed the attack on Russian state backed hackers

Citing disruptions and losses caused by NotPetya and WannaCry attack, the authors of the report note that “we will look back at 2017 as the year that the world began to take seriously the potential extent of our vulnerability to cyber-attack disruptions.”

Australian execs ranked energy price shocks as the biggest risk, placing cyber attacks at second, followed asset bubbles, and failure of regional and global governance. The report notes Australia’s sensitivity towards energy prices was likely because of a “badly managed transition from aging coal-fired power generation to renewables” has led to supply shortages and price rises.

Regionally, however, the WEF believes cyber-attacks are the top concern among countries within East Asia and the Pacific. 

"The prominence of cyber-attacks as a concern among the region’s businesses reflects the rapid pace of digitization and the increasing sophistication of the region’s economies. South-East Asia in particular is the fastest-growing region in the world in terms of connections to the internet, with a projected 3.8 million new users each month, and estimates that its online economy will reach $200 billion by 2025," it notes. 

The top concerns among North American respondents were cyber attacks, followed by data fraud or theft, extreme weather events, fiscal crises, and energy price shocks. 

Heightened concerns about data fraud in North America were likely due to massive data breaches in 2017, such as the Equifax breach that exposed data on 143 million US consumers. Another possible source of angst was Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, which affected 87 million Facebook users.   

The WEF’s report is based on its Executive Opinion Survey, which asked 12,548 executives to rank the top risks from 30 global risks.