By  on February 15, 2013

GENEVA — Cyber attacks across the world are costing businesses, including retailers, billions of dollars in losses each year from theft of commercially valuable customer data and other damages.

Francis Maude, British Minister for Cyber Security, said, “For every organization, [there’s an] obligation…to conduct a really serious review of what their risk and vulnerability is, and protect themselves accordingly. No one else can do that for them. They have to do that for themselves, because everyone’s vulnerable.”

Maude told WWD, “We know that in Britain, the damage runs to billions [of pounds] every year.”

A global survey of 1,330 chief executive officers in 68 countries, conducted by PwC, found 63 percent worried their organizations would be adversely affected if a cyber attack or major disruption of the Internet happened within the next 12 months, the third highest in a top list of negative scenarios, behind major social unrest (75 percent), and recession in the U.S. (67 percent).

ThreatMetrix, a cyber crime prevention company based in San Jose, Calif., in its cyber security trends and risks analysis for 2013, said data breaches “will continue to put top brands at risk,” as cyber attacks impacted in 2012 on high-profile brands such as eHarmony, Zappos and Global Payments. It also warns that “[m]alware, historically targeted at financial institutions, will increasingly affect retailers.”

“Many companies are vulnerable, and they’re vulnerable in two respects,” Maude said in an interview last month on the sidelines of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “They will have huge amount of data about their customers, which is of commercial importance to their company. That’s valuable to another company, and that is a form of industrial espionage and theft of intellectual property. The other vulnerability is that when we try to protect our systems, it’s not just about protecting us, its about protecting others whose data…[we] are under an obligation to protect.”

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