“The UK defence secretary's announcement, earlier this week, that the country is developing cyber war capability brings cyber warfare further into the open and highlights a great threat to our society and our economy.
“Only a few years ago most businesses thought that the greatest cyber security threat came from teenage hackers, so-called, 'script kiddies' in their bedrooms. Now the greatest danger comes from sophisticated foreign states attacking businesses as legitimate targets in a low cost alternative to conventional warfare.“
The implications are real and very serious for two reasons. Cyber warfare can be conducted with little physical harm to human life making it inherently attractive. Secondly, the potential to cause serious economic damage is almost unimaginable. The attacks we have seen in the last few weeks on a number of high street banks are trivial when compared to what could be done by a military power. Businesses, particularly those involved in supporting critical national infrastructure, are primary targets, not secondary targets, in cyber war.“
Yet very few have realised that they are at the centre of the next generation of warfare. While governments can provide some protection, businesses can't leave themselves wide open to attack. The chances of any meaningful international treaty governing cyber war being agreed in the next ten years is close to zero, and waiting for this makes no sense.“Boards, in particular the board Chairs and CEOs need to get to grips with the new reality of cyber war threats and lead the defence.”
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This article represents the views of the author only, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of KPMG in the UK.