The number-one risk for business continuity professionals is cyber attacks, according to the 2017 Horizon Scan Report published by the Business Continuity Institution (BCI), an association that provides insights into fast-changing threat landscapes, and the British Standards Institution (BSI). Data breaches come in second on the report’s top ten list, followed by unplanned IT and telecom outages, security incidents, adverse weather (climate change), utility service interruption, terrorism acts, supply chain disruption, availability of talent and skills and, for the first time, political uncertainty around the introduction of new laws and regulations. The report gathered data from 726 respondents in 79 countries.

Cyber attacks (malware, denial of service) and data breaches (loss or theft of confidential information) continue to cost organizations billions of dollars annually, cites the report, an amount that is only set to rise with increasing integration of new technology into daily operations and the resulting reliance on connectivity. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of organizations indicated that their “extremely concerned” or “concerned” about the possibility of a cyber attack; 81% are concerned about data breaches.

Emerging trends such as the onslaught of malicious attacks on the computer networking systems of organizations, the influence of social media on a company’s reputation as a result of a disruption and the prevalence and high adoption of Internet-dependent services (the cloud), among other issues all contribute to cyber as a top threat.

Howard Kerr, Chief Executive at BSI, stated, “2016 continued to see high-profile businesses affected by cyber attack and disruption, so it’s not surprising to see it remains as the top threat to business. However, we remain concerned to see that businesses are still not fully utilizing the information available to them to identify and remedy weaknesses in their organizational resilience. Ultimately, organizations must recognize that, while there is a risk, and plenty of it, there is also an opportunity. Taking advantage of this means that leaders can steer their businesses to not just survive, but thrive.”

Supply chain disruption also continues to remain a top concern for the third year running since the six years that BCI has conducted the survey. More than more than one-third (34%) report losing at least €1 million cumulatively on annual basis due to supply chain losses. Nine percent (9%) report at least €1 million of losses due to a single incident.

David Thorp, Executive Director at BCI, commented: “Given the diversity of the threats out there, it is absolutely essential to adopt agile and dynamic responses. Planning to recover from a data breach is very different from planning for the aftermath of a terrorist attack, and, as this year’s report highlights, the risk spectrum can be very broad. Malicious Internet actors, political shake-ups, and climate change are all amongst the main worries for societies around the world. As always, the key takeaway should be that with challenges come opportunities. Change does not have to mean less favorable environments, but the landscape may be different. As organizations venture into uncharted territory now is the time to identify and undertake the measures that will increase resilience within your organization by ensuring that effective business continuity planning is in place.

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