Game-changing business opportunities are created, as well as risks, as companies continue to use technology to speed up information transfer, according to re/insurance broker Aon

A new report from Aon has outlined eight threat areas around cyber risks, ranging from the internet of things to merger deals.

Game-changing business opportunities are being created, as well as greatly increased risks, as companies continue to use technology to speed up the transfer of information, according to the re/insurance broker’s study.

Aon’s “What’s Now and What’s Next” 2019 Cyber Security Risk Report details the greatest cyber security threats and challenges organisations are currently facing.

“In 2018 we witnessed that a proactive approach to cyber preparation and planning paid off for the companies that invested in it, and in 2019, we anticipate the need for advanced planning will only further accelerate,” said Jason Hogg, CEO of cyber solutions at Aon.

“Leaders must work to better insulate their companies and their processes, while simultaneously identifying the ways they can benefit from the opportunities offered through technology and digital transformation,” he added.

Here are the eight factors headlined from the Aon report.

Technology – While technology has revolutionised the way organisations today conduct business, broader and wider-spread use of technology also brings vulnerabilities, Aon noted.

“From publishing to automotive, industries are facing new, evolving services and business models. These new opportunities however, bring with them a radically different set of risks, which organisations will need to anticipate and manage as they continue the digital transformation process.”

Supply chain – Two prevailing supply chain trends will heighten cyber risks dramatically in the coming year, according to Aon: one is the rapid expansion of operational data exposed to cyber adversaries, from mobile and edge devices like the Internet of Things (IoT); and the other trend is companies’ growing reliance on third-party—and even fourth-party—vendors and service providers.

“Both trends present attackers with new openings into supply chains, and require board-level, forward-looking risk management in order to sustain reliable and viable business operations,” said Aon.

IoT – Connected IoT devices are everywhere, and every device in a workplace now presents a potential security risk, the broker said. Many companies don’t securely manage or even inventory all IoT devices that touch their business, which is already resulting in breaches.

“As time goes on, the number of IoT endpoints will increase dramatically, facilitated by the current worldwide rollouts of cellular IoT and the forthcoming transition to 5G. Effective organisational inventory and monitoring process implementation will be critical for companies in the coming year and beyond,” said Aon.

Business operations – Connectivity to the Internet improves operational tasks dramatically, but increased connectivity also leads to new security vulnerabilities. The attack surface expands greatly as connectivity increases, Aon noted, making it easier for attackers to move laterally across an entire network.

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“Further, operational shortcuts or ineffective backup processes can make the impact of an attack on business operations even more significant. Organisations need to be better aware of, and prepared for, the cyber impact of increased connectivity,” the broker said.

Employees – Staffs remain one of the most common causes of breaches. Yet employees likely do not even realise the true threat they pose to an entire organisation’s cyber security.

“As technology continues to impact every job function, from the CEO to the entry-level intern, it is imperative for organisations to establish a comprehensive approach to mitigate insider risks, including strong data governance, communicating cyber security policies throughout the organisation, and implementing effective access and data-protection controls,” said Aon.

Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) – Projections anticipate that M&A deal value will top $4trn in 2018, Aon said, citing IMAA figures, which would be the highest in four years.

“The conundrum this poses to companies acquiring other businesses is that while they may have a flawless approach to cyber security enterprise risk, there is no guarantee that their M&A target has the same approach in place,” said the report.

“Dealmakers must weave specific cyber security strategies into their larger M&A plans if they want to ensure seamless transitions in the future,” the re/insurance broker warned.

Regulatory – Increased regulation, laws, rules and standards related to cyber are designed to protect and insulate businesses and their customers.

“The pace of cyber regulation enforcement increased in 2018, setting the stage for heightened compliance risk in 2019. Regulation and compliance, however, cannot become the sole focus,” Aon said.

“Firms must balance both new regulations and evolving cyber threats, which will require vigilance on all sides,” the broker continued.

Board of directors – Cyber security oversight continues to be a point of emphasis for board directors and officers, but recent history has seen an expanding personal risk raising the stakes, Aon highlighted.

Boards must continue to expand their focus and set a strong tone across the company, not only for actions taken after a cyber incident, but also proactive preparation and planning, according to Aon.

Aon’s Hogg said the report showed the need to share threat intelligence across not only a firm’s own network but with others as well.

“While it may seem counterintuitive when thinking about cyber security, collaboration within and across enterprises and industries can keep private data of companies and individuals alike safer,” he continued.

“Working together can result in improved efforts to hunt bad actors, while also raising the bar and making all parties more prepared for the inevitable day when a disruption does happen,” Hogg added.