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Execs Say Cyberattacks Could Disrupt Whole Industries

Widespread concern regarding the potential effects of cyber-attacks in corporate America has led C-level professionals to readily acknowledge that a coordinated assault launched by sophisticated cyber-criminals would wreak ongoing havoc on business operations, cause considerable harm to a brand, and potentially affect related companies, even entire industries.

A survey from RedSeal showed that three-quarters (74%) of executives acknowledge that cyber-attacks on networks of U.S. organizations can cause “serious damage or disruption,” and most of the rest, 21%, admit to fears of “significant damage or disruption.”

In addition, many also point out that in the networked economy, containing the problems caused by a sustained network attack will be very difficult. In fact, a major network disruption at a single company or network can easily disrupt or even wreak havoc on a local, state, national and even global level.

Asked what other areas might be affected by the “resulting ripple effects of cyber-attacks on one network,” a clear majority, 64%, cited “further business-related security vulnerabilities.” More than half, 56%, went further, citing “national vulnerabilities,” and an even larger number, 59%, agreed with the possibility of a security domino effect.

“As this research makes clear, securing the network infrastructure to ensure ongoing business operations is not an abstract concern: It’s a vital issue, because a successful attack will have devastating and even far-reaching consequences,” said Ray Rothrock, chairman and CEO of RedSeal. “A coordinated, sophisticated and large-scale assault will not stay within the walls of the company being attacked. It could easily trigger a domino effect and cause widespread disruption, reaching companies in other sectors and even the national grid. I’ve been investing in cybersecurity for 25 years, and I see how the level of sophistication in cyber-attacks has increased dramatically in just the past few years.”

In fact, the idea of a domino effect—one successful attack on one network leading directly to attacks on different networks in diverse but connected sectors of the economy—clearly resonated strongly with the executives surveyed. More than half the respondents, 52%, singled out “defense systems” as being potentially affected by a cyber-criminal incident or data breach, while 45% cited “border security.” And taking a big picture approach, a significant 59% said such attacks will take their toll on “economic security.”

Judging by the responses, most important sectors of the economy would be severely affected. These include:

  •  Financial/Banking: 53%
  • Energy/Utilities: 46%
  • Government or critical infrastructure functions: 41%
  • Stock exchange/trading: 41%
  • Healthcare: 35%

“What this survey rightly highlights is that in a hyper-networked economy, where most networks are inextricably linked to each other, a major network attack will be very difficult to isolate,” said Richard Stiennon of IT-Harvest, in a statement. “This isn’t an IT or even a basic operational issue—it has national significance, and should be managed accordingly.”

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