Three-quarters (75%) of the respondents to Accenture's new report, "Securing the Digital Economy: Reinventing the Internet for Trust," said that they believe that addressing cybersecurity challenges will require cross-industry coordination. (iStock/ALM Media archives) Three-quarters (75%) of the respondents to Accenture’s new report, “Securing the Digital Economy: Reinventing the Internet for Trust,” said that they believe that addressing cybersecurity challenges will require cross-industry coordination. (iStock/ALM Media archives)

Companies globally could incur $5.2 trillion in additional costs and lost revenue over the next five years due to cyberattacks, as dependency on complex internet-enabled business models outpaces the ability to introduce adequate safeguards that protect critical assets, according to a new report from Accenture, the global professional services company.

Based on a survey of more than 1,700 chief executive officers and other C-suite executives worldwide, the report titled “Securing the Digital Economy: Reinventing the Internet for Trust” explores the complexities of the internet-related challenges facing business and outlines imperatives for the chief executive officer’s evolving role in technology, business architecture and governance.

The report notes that cybercrime poses significant challenges that can threaten business operations, innovation and growth, as well as the expansion into new products and services, ultimately costing companies trillions of dollars.

The high-tech industry faces the highest risk, with more than $753 billion hanging in the balance, followed by the life sciences and automotive industries, with $642 billion and $505 billion at risk, respectively, according to the Accenture report.

“Internet security is lagging behind the sophistication of cybercriminals and is leading to an erosion of trust in the digital economy,” said Omar Abbosh, who leads Accenture’s communications, media, and technology operating group globally. “Strengthening internet security requires decisive — and, at times, unconventional — leadership by CEOs, not just CISOs. To become a cyber-resilient enterprise, companies need to start by bringing CISOs’ expertise to the board, ensuring security is built-in from the initial design stage and that all business managers are held responsible for security and data privacy.”

Key findings

Among the takeaways from the Accenture report:

  • Four in five respondents (79%) said they believed that the advancement of the digital economy will be severely hindered unless there is dramatic improvement in internet security;
  • More than half (59%) of respondents said the internet is getting increasingly unstable from a cybersecurity standpoint, and they are unsure how to respond;
  • Three-quarters (75%) of respondents said that they believed that addressing cybersecurity challenges will require an organized group effort, as no single organization can solve the challenge on its own; and
  • More than half (56%) of executives said that they would welcome stricter business regulations imposed by a central organization or governing body.

“The internet wasn’t built with today’s level of complexity and connectivity in mind, which is why it takes just one click — whether inside or outside the company walls — to fall prey to a devastating cyberattack,” said Kelly Bissell, senior managing director of Accenture Security. “No organization can tackle the challenges posed by cyber threats on its own; it’s a global challenge that needs a global response, and collaboration is key. To shape a future that thrives on a strong and trustworthy digital economy, senior executives need to look beyond the bounds of their organization, team with an ecosystem of partners, and secure their entire value chains — across every partner, supplier, and customer.”

The rapid emergence of new technologies is creating additional challenges, as four in five respondents (79 %) said that their organization is adopting new and emerging technologies faster than they can address related cybersecurity issues, with three-quarters (76 %) noting that cybersecurity issues have escaped their control due to new technologies such as the internet of things (IoT) and the industrial internet of things (IIoT). A majority (80 %) also said protecting their companies from weaknesses in third parties is increasingly difficult, which was not surprising given the complexity of today’s sprawling internet ecosystems, Accenture said.

Also on the minds of many senior executives: consumer data protection. Fueled by security concerns, 76 % of respondents said that they believed that consumers could not trust the safety of their online identities when too much of their personal data was already available without restrictions.

This story first published on FC&S Legal, where Victoria Prussen Spears, Esq., is the associate director.

See also: 15 states most at risk from cybercrime in 2018