The Rise of the Digital Pandemic

Following two years of unprecedented global disruption to businesses and supply chains, caused by Covid-19, a new digital pandemic is emerging.

According to a recent report published by Allianz, cyber incidents have claimed the top spot in this year's 2022 Risk Barometer report. The findings of this report show that the increase of cyber threats has been a growing concern for businesses in recent years. Accelerated by the push toward remote working during the Covid-19 pandemic and the increase of digitalisation, the commercialisation of cyber-crime has made it easier for criminals to exploit vulnerabilities on a massive scale.

Industries that handle personal data, such as healthcare and retail, have been the target of choice for hackers in previous years. However, attacks are becoming more sophisticated and indiscriminate. Ransomware attacks have been reported by organisations across both private and public sectors.

Previously, when talking about cyber threats, there would be an inclination to think of any disruption or damage being limited to I.T. systems, in the form of data breaches or I.T. failures. However, as wireless technology becomes more widespread, its utilisation within the business sector has brought with it an increased risk of damage to physical infrastructure.

The bricks-and-mortar buildings we occupy are susceptible to cyber-attacks because our modern environments are hardwired into technology that requires access to online platforms. Worryingly, serious disruption due to physical damage is on the rise, with a series of high-profile hacking incidents hitting international headlines in recent weeks.

In what has been described as one of the biggest assaults on Iran’s strategic industrial sector, several Iranian steel plants were forced to halt production. Closed-circuit video footage released by “Gonjeshke Darande”, a group claiming responsibility for the attack, reportedly shows the factory floor of the Khuzestan Steel Plant. The footage shows a large piece of heavy machinery malfunctioning, causing molten steel to spill out of its receptacle, resulting in a large fire. The full extent of the damage, along with the impact this attack has had on the Iranian economy, remains unknown. Despite the footage being shared widely online by several global news outlets, the Chief Executive of Khuzestan Steel deemed the attack as “unsuccessful” and maintains that the company managed to fend off the attack and prevent disruption to production.

The Global Head of Cyber at AGCS, Scott Sayce warns that as the cyber risk landscape continues to evolve, along with our increasing reliance on digital infrastructure, attacks such as the ones in Iran are becoming more common. Sayce explains these attacks are a logical response to organisations ramping up their cyber security responses.

However, while most organisations have business continuity plans, it has been found that fewer than 40% actually test them. Pre-incident planning including incident responses and scenario-based testing is vital in minimising the impact of a cyber-attack.

You can learn more about cyber issues by completing the range of ‘Cyber Risks’ modules available on the Development Zone.

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About the author

Jessica joined RWA in 2018, having graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Film Studies. Her role as a content designer involves developing new and engaging e-learning modules as well as assisting in the creation of articles for Insight. 

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