C-suite execs fear ‘domino effect’ of cyber attacks: Survey

High-ranking corporate executives are worried that in a networked economy, a cyber attack on one company could spill over to other businesses and create a major disruption of national or even global proportions.

This was among the findings of a recent survey conducted by RedSeal Inc., a cyber security certification company. The company released the results of the survey at the RSA Conference 2015 security event in San Francisco today.

In a poll of 350 executives which included chief information officers, chief information security officers, chief executive officers and chief security officers from companies with workforces ranging from 250 to 1,000 employees, RedSeal found 59 per cent of respondents believe a major cyber incident could affect a country’s economic security.

As many as 56 per cent of CEOs, CIOs and CSO believe even just one cyber attack can lead to “significant national vulnerabilities.

“A coordinated, sophisticated and large-scale assault will not stay within the walls of the company being attacked,” said Ray Rothrock, chairman of RedSeal. “It could trigger a domino effect and cause widespread disruption, reaching companies in other sectors and even the national grid.”

The vast majority of respondents (74 per cent) said cyber attacks on networks of United States-based organizations can cause “serious damage or disruption.

Nearly 80 per cent said such attacks have the potential of inflicting “serious impacts to business profitability and growth and” and cause “serious brand damage.”

According to the respondents, the most important sectors that could be affected by an attack are:

  • Financial and banking – 53 per cent
  • Energy and utilities – 46 per cent
  • Government and critical infrastructures – 41 per cent
  • Stock exchange – 41 per cent
  • Healthcare – 35 per cent

When asked what areas might be affected by the “ripple effect” of a cyber attack:

  • 64 per cent cited “further business-related cyber security vulnerabilities
  • 54 per cent cited national vulnerabilities

The idea of a domino effect (one attack on a network impacting other networks in another sector) resonated with the executives:

  • 52 per cent of respondents cited defence systems as being affected by a cybercriminal attack or data breach
  • 45 per cent cited border security
  • 59 per cent said the domino effect could impact economic security.

“Many of the respondents are also very aware that in this intricately networked economy, it will be very difficult to contain problems once an attack begins,” according to RedSeal.

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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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