Security Staff Acquisition & Development

Cybersecurity is No. 2 global threat in new survey – ahead of pandemics

Fuel holding tanks are seen at Colonial Pipeline’s Linden Junction Tank Farm on May 10, 2021, in Woodbridge, N.J. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Cybersecurity risks ranked only behind climate change in a survey released this week on challenges facing the world.

The French multinational insurance firm Axa surveyed more than 3,500 risk experts in 60 countries. Partnering with Ipsos, 20,000 respondents of the general public in 15 countries were also surveyed for the Future Risks Report 2021, released Sept. 29.

As much of the global population spent most of the last year in isolation due to COVID-19, pandemics and infectious diseases overtook climate change and cybersecurity as the No. 1 risk in the 2020 survey. But as many companies instituted work-from-home and hybrid policies for their workers during lockdowns, it should come as no surprise that cybersecurity has again risen in this year’s ranking — pandemics dropped to No. 3.

Axa’s CEO Thomas Buberl noted in the report’s forward that cybersecurity has taken the top spot in the United States for the first time this year, and second place in all other geographies. The number of experts who picked cybersecurity among their top-five risks increased from 54% in the 2018 survey to 61% this year. 

While cyberattacks grabbed headlines and security became a priority for the Biden administration, only 26% of experts surveyed thought governments were prepared for cyber threats, a figure unchanged since 2019. 

Financial instability rose from No. 9 to No. 8 this year, after not having even been in the top 10 in either 2018 and 2019. When asked why they chose cybersecurity, experts mentioned concern about the shutdown of essential services and critical infrastructure (47%), and cyber extortion and ransomware (21%) as their top reasons. 

The report noted that attacks on the Colonial Pipeline, which disrupted fuel supplies in parts of the U.S., imposed themselves on the public consciousness alongside other high-profile attacks such as SolarWinds and Kaseya.

Stephen Weigand

Stephen Weigand is managing editor and production manager for SC Media. He has worked for news media in Washington, D.C., covering military and defense issues, as well as federal IT. He is based in the Seattle area.

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