Cyber attacks are the greatest threat facing businesses in Europe, North America, East Asia and the Pacific, a worldwide survey of over 12,000 executives has found.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) spoke to more than 12,000 executives around the world about what they considered to be the biggest risks to doing businesses, ranging across political, societal and technological concerns.
The finding marks a sharp rise in concerns around technological risks, with cyber attacks only ranked the top threat in two regions last year, and just one in 2016.
Researchers found there were significant variations in risk perceptions between world regions. For example, cyber-attacks were considered the number one risk by executives in Europe and advanced economies, while failure of national governance was the top concern for their Latin American counterparts.
High profile cyber-attacks had already begun to hit companies around the world.
Earlier this month, a data breach at HealthCare.gov exposed the personal details of around 75,000 people, while recent months have also seen customer data breached at airlines Cathay Pacific and British Airways.
“Cyber attacks are seen as the number one risk in markets that account for 50% of global GDP,” said Lori Bailey, member of the WEF’s Global Future Council on Cybersecurity. “This strongly suggests governments and businesses need to strengthen cyber security and resilience in order to maintain confidence in a highly connected digital economy.”
Meanwhile, John Drzik, president of global risk and digital at Marsh, told WEF researchers that geopolitical tension was a risk that could continue to escalate.
"While large cyber-attacks are the number one concern of executives in advanced economies, there is growing apprehension about the potential for national governance failures in emerging markets," he said. "Across the globe, businesses are also concerned with rising geopolitical friction that has already resulted in rising tariffs and sanctions, and which could further fuel the growing threat of expropriation or political violence."
“Understanding the evolving risks in different regions is top of mind for business leaders,” WEF executive committee member, Mirek Dusek, said. “Given the current geopolitical uncertainty, cooperation within and among regions is of critical importance.”