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Aon CEO on 'pervasiveness' of cyber threat

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Aon Australia has given its take on the local findings from the broker’s recent biennial risk survey.

Australia CEO Jennifer Richards says the local results, in which cyber attacks/data breach topped the risk list for the first time, shows the level of the threat in today’s business environment.

“It is notable that the sharp move of cyber from fifth position to first in the course of two years speaks to the pervasiveness of the risk,” Ms Richards said.

“Ransomware exploded in 2020, and we have seen hundreds of Australian businesses of all sizes and in all industries impacted by extortion attempts of various levels of sophistication with ransoms ranging from the thousands to the millions.

“In Australia in the future, it is predicted we will continue to see ransomware, supply chain risk, business email compromise and attacks against operational technology as the primary cyber threats to Australian businesses.”

She says COVID-19 ushered in a substantial shift in the pace of business, and in turn exponentially intensified cyber risk.

“Australian organisations have become acutely aware of the severity of these attacks as we’ve seen businesses brought to their knees overnight with some never to recover,” Ms Richards said.

“Failure to appropriately assess, quantify and transfer your cyber risk is also the root cause of many of the other risks ranked in the top five – notably, brand and reputation, business interruption, legislative changes to name a few.”

The Australia findings are based on 121 responses across various industries with the top represented clusters being public sector; energy, utilities and natural resources; financial institutions; construction and real estate; and retail and consumer goods.

As reported last month when Aon released the survey findings, Australia respondents say after cyber, the next nine biggest risks to their businesses are damage to reputation/brand, failure to innovate/meet customer needs, business interruption, failure to attract or retain top talent, regulatory/legislative changes, economic slowdown/slow recovery, cash flow/liquidity risk, pandemic risk/health crises and increasing competition.

In the 2019 survey, damage to reputation/brand placed first.

Ms Richards says Australian businesses recognise that reputational crises can have a substantial impact on a company’s future.

“In 2021 and beyond, the continuing impact of COVID-19 and then on businesses’ responses to the changing economy, the prevalence of social media threats and the 24/7 news cycle has the potential to create rapid impacts which can have an immediate and lasting impact on an organisation’s shareholder value and reputation,” she said.

Click here and here for Ms Richards’ analysis of the risk landscape.