Saudi CEOs identify cybersecurity as greatest threat to business

Published: 21 February 2020 - 3:58 p.m.
By: Baset Asaba

Cybersecurity is the top risk to an organization’s growth, according to chief executives in Saudi Arabia, as opposed to 2018 when it was ranked the sixth among greatest threats, according to the latest Saudi Arabia CEO Outlook report by KPMG.

The report found that 20% of CEOs in the Kingdom agreed that cybersecurity risk is the greatest threat to the organization’s growth compared to only four per cent in the year before.

Over the past few years, CEOs in Saudi Arabia have increasingly adopted digital technologies to upgrade their business operations, realize higher growth potential and align their organizations with the digitalization objectives under Vision 2030.

Last year, only 2 per cent of the CEOs around the world and in Saudi Arabia strongly agreed that a security breach was to be expected in the foreseeable future, whereas today, these numbers jumped to 10% and 14%, respectively, the report found.

“Global CEOs have had a longer exposure to cyber threats and thus to adapt to new technologies to combat these. But they are still concerned about becoming a victim to cyber-attacks. This leaves CEOs in Saudi Arabia with an important lesson to not ignore these threats as something less important and continuously invest in upgrading their control systems,” commented Ton Diemont, Head of Cybersecurity, KPMG in Saudi Arabia.

To safeguard themselves from cyber-attacks, CEOs need to embed cybersecurity into their overall change program by instituting a robust cybersecurity strategy, operational frameworks and data security measures to ensure the protection of networks, IT systems, infrastructure and data.

“CEOs in Saudi Arabia are enhancing their cybersecurity systems by upskilling cyber and data specialists, partnering with technology companies and leveraging defensive cyber security software. As a result, the CEOs are exhibiting higher confidence in their cyber security capabilities as compared to the last year,” Diemont added.

Interestingly, nearly six out of 10 CEOs in Saudi Arabia feel they are now well prepared for a future cyber-attack, as opposed to four out of 10 CEOs in the previous survey results.

Additionally, 60 per cent of the CEOs in Saudi Arabia view information security as a potential source of competitive advantage and critical to engender trust with key stakeholders. While 54 per cent of CEOs believe that robust cyber strategy is critical to creating trust with key stakeholders, 64% of CEOs (up from38 per cent in the year before) find that protecting customer data is important to enable the organization to grow its customer base in the future.

“Growing digital connectedness and a wider range of customer interaction through mobile interfaces, coupled with stricter security regulations, have also made protecting customer data more crucial. Consequently, companies are increasingly focusing on protecting customer data, not just to comply with regulations but also to have a strategic advantage over their competitors,” Ton Diemont concluded.

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