Mar 22, 2021

Cybersecurity becomes focus for UK CEOs during COVID-19

remote working
Sam Steers
3 min
Courtesy of Stock Depot, Getty Images
Due to COVID-19, CEOs across the UK are turning their attention to cybersecurity so they can achieve their digital transformation and home-working goals...

UK CEOs are starting to place an increasing amount of emphasis on the importance of cybersecurity and data protection in an attempt to achieve their goals of digital transformation and working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This comes after a survey titled ‘24th Annual CEO Survey for 2021’, conducted by PwC UK found that, over the next three years, 67% of CEOs in the United Kingdom plan to increase their long-term investment in cybersecurity and data protection.

The survey also found that 91% of CEOs are concerned about cyber threats, the figure being the highest ever recorded since CEOs were first asked about cyber-related threats.

As well as this, 48% of those surveyed said they were ‘extremely concerned’ about cyber threats, up from 42% in 2020, resulting in the need to increase cybersecurity awareness.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing companies to adapt their operations to a more online environment, Chris Gaines, Cyber Security Leader of PwC UK believes that this has played a major role in the concerns over the threat protection of organisations. 

As the criticality of technology has increased over the past year, so have UK CEOs’ fears of cybersecurity threats. This heightened concern is understandable as the stakes are so much higher than they were 12 months ago. 

“Businesses have become more aware of how reliant on the technology they are for their very survival, and as such the risk of cybersecurity attacks naturally weighs more heavily on their minds, he said.

“The technological changes implemented over the past 12 months have not only been across businesses, but also society, and many were implemented in haste.”

He added: “Risk-averse organizations who in different times may have taken years to plan for increased remote working made the change overnight. Organizations must now effectively, securely embed such changes while continuing to evolve and innovate.”

Chris also points out that it is important for organisations to not just consider their online security but also how cyber crime can impact on business as a whole.

He said: "Securing an enterprise is far more than ensuring the CIO builds the right technical controls. It is about simplifying the organization to be securable. It is about assessing, understanding and managing the cyber risk impact of every business decision. And it is about recognizing that much of cybersecurity risk originates from vulnerabilities outside their organization.

"CEOs are right to be concerned about cybersecurity risk but the challenge they face is shaping their organizations to be securable. However, this period of change we find ourselves in presents the perfect moment to face into that challenge," he added.

Between January and February 2021, PwC Surveyed 5,050 CEOs in 100 countries and when asked which threats featured in their risk management, “cyber threats” was the most-chosen response, ahead of “pandemics and other health crises” and “uncertain economic growth”. 

The transfer to online due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic affects everybody and cybersecurity looks to provide an opportunity for CEOs to increse their online security and better prepare them for future cyber attacks. 

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Jun 9, 2021

Digital transformation stumbles at the UK North-South divide

3 min
New data from Pulsant points to the UK’s digital divide mapping closely to the geographical divide between the affluent, digitalised South, and the North. 

Since the dawn of Thatcherite Britain in the 1980’s, the division between the country’s North and South has grown into a social and economic gulf. Through the concerted efforts of Tory governance - and compounded by the neoliberal policies of the Blaire era - London has become the economic, cultural and social heart of the UK, much to the detriment of other industrial and population hubs, particularly in the North of England and Scotland. 

In his 2014 essay, Thatcher’s Legacy Still Looms Large: The North-South divide in Britain’s electoral support, Ed Fieldhouse, the principal investigator of the British Election Study, and a professor at the University of Manchester, noted that during the economic turmoil of the 1970s and the deep recession of the  early 1980s, “the North of Britain was hardest hit by economic restructuring and deindustrialisation.” 

He adds: “The Conservative Party under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher became associated with neo-Liberal economic policies  that many regarded as the solution to Britain’s economic problems. Others saw them as legitimising the mass unemployment of the era. Not surprisingly those favouring market based approaches were disproportionately likely to live in the South of Britain whilst the rest of the country favoured redistribution and government intervention.” Those policies, which spurred economic growth in the South (particularly in London), and stemmed it in the rest of the country, continue to shape the UK’s socio-political and economic makeup today. 

Now, new research from Pulsant suggests that the UK’s North-South divide is extending into the age of digital transformation as well, something that could have dire consequences for the future of the nation as it makes its way into a post-Brexit future on one withered, shaky leg. 

According to Pulsant’s survey of business and IT leaders throughout the UK, 61% of organisations in the South East and London say their location is advantageous to their digital transformation ambitions compared to just 41% in the rest of England. 

“There is a clear regional divide emerging across the country as organisations strive for digital agility. The South East has better access to infrastructure, leadership and skills to drive change,” commented Pulsant CTO Simon Michie on Wednesday. 

While digital transformation is recognised as essential to organisations on both sides of the divide (with 75% in the North saying transformation is ‘very important’ compared to 71% in the South) enterprises in the North of England say that a lack of specialist skills caused by the mass migration of talent to London is a huge barrier to success. “Lack of specialist skills is cited as the biggest barrier to digital transformation with 40% in the region saying this is the case. The majority in the North (69%) say location is a barrier to accessing talent compared to 51% in the South. Just under half (49%) in the North say they require niche skill sets that are not currently available, compared to just 35% in the South,” notes the report. 

However, Michie also revealed that the North “has the biggest appetite for digital transformation which has been spurred on by the pandemic, but businesses in the region are struggling to keep up with the rest of the country. Various barriers are putting transformation efforts at risk and businesses in the region will need to focus on identifying where external skills, support and expertise are required to help them future-proof and reach their digital potential.”

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