Brian Sims

Cyber attacks dominate resilience experts’ risk landscapes for 2024

THE BUSINESS Continuity Institute (BCI) has launched its Horizon Scan Report for 2023, itself a highly anticipated document examining the incidents that have occurred in organisations over the past year, as well as those of most concern for 2024. Among the latter is the spectre of cyber attacks.

Sponsored by Noggin, the report uses survey responses and structured interviews with senior resilience professionals to provide an in-depth analysis. In 2023, the foremost disruption for organisations has proven to be occupational health incidents with a considerable increase in sickness absences due to occurrences such as stress, depression and anxiety among employees.

While the impact of this particular threat is lower than the other Top Ten threats this year, its high frequency means that it heads the list of disruptive events in 2023. The current level of work-related health issues is now higher, in fact, than those observed pre-pandemic in 2018-2019.

The landscape of disruptions changes when analysing through a regional lens. Extreme weather events top the list of disruptive events in North America and Asia for this calendar year. Indeed, with China recording an all-time heat record of 52.2oC in July, and the northern hemisphere experiencing its hottest ever summer on record, such concerns are hardly surprising.

While it’s important to analyse impacts for horizon scanning purposes, looking at the consequences of these impacts provides deeper insight into the level of damage that a disruption can cause. The greatest impact in terms of disruption this year has been realised due to the loss of productivity, which has risen from second place in 2022. Both health incidents and lost productivity emphasise the importance of the human factor in ensuring an organization’s resilience.

2024: cyber attacks

Non-occupational disease/pandemic outbreak is no longer a high concern for organisations, slipping from second place in 2022 to 21st in the 2023 report.

Cyber attacks are now firmly top of the list when it comes to the 2024 risk landscape as such attacks continue to grow, attack vectors shift and Artificial Intelligence threatens to make the cyber security landscape even more complex.

However, while this shifting of non-occupational disease/pandemic to a near-bottom position on the table might be expected, it does emphasise the importance of ensuring that risks which are no longer front of mind are not neglected. Pandemic, for example, is still one of the greatest risks for 2024 (according to the UK’s National Risk Register 2023) and neglecting it in planning, training and exercising could leave organisations’ resilience exposed.

Climbing the rankings from sixth to second this year and, symptomatic of the rise in related events in 2023, extreme weather events are a significant concern for organisations and are now second in the risk index for 2024.

On top of this, organisations are expecting a continued struggle with the impacts of the increased cost of living. This is viewed as a top risk in 2023 and also occupies a similar spot for the coming 12 months.

Additional risk concerns

The Top Ten risks for organisations in 2024 also include potential IT and telecoms outages, supply chain disruption, data breaches, critical infrastructure failure and the introduction of new technology.

Rachael Elliott, head of thought leadership at the BCI, stated: “After a year of record-breaking weather events, together with escalating global conflicts and fiscal challenges, it’s not surprising to see that practitioners’ view of the 2024 risk landscape has been reworked from the previous edition of this report.”

Elliott continued: “COVID-19 taught the industry lessons in the importance of being prepared for the unexpected and it’s particularly refreshing to see these lessons being adopted into practice. However, with non-occupational disease/pandemic dropping nearly to the bottom of the risk table for 2024, we need to remember to not become blinkered because new risks are infiltrating the risk landscape. We must not ignore things that are still likely to happen, but which have perhaps faded in importance in recent times.”

James Boddam-Whetham, CEO at Noggin, explained: “While we move out of the long shadow of the pandemic, we move into a new era of consecutive, concurrent and compounding crises. This new era requires that practitioners marshal many of the tools they built to ensure collaboration and co-ordination in response and deploy them in an even more complex risk environment.”

He added: “It’s heartening to note that some of that work is being successfully undertaken. However, with the fluidity inherent in the present risk landscape and anticipation of even more in the year to come, organisations must do more to embrace a comprehensive and holistic approach to resilience.”

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