Aon joins EU Horizon 2020 initiative to tackle cyber risk

10 August 2015 Consultancy.uk

Aon has joined WISER, a project part of the EU’s flagship innovation and research programme Horizon 2020. The WISER project aims to improve the cyber security practices at firms through an easy to use framework to assess cyber-crime, implement best practice and report serious compromises. Aon will help further the practical side of the programme by providing a platform for business.

Horizon 2020 is the European Union’s largest programme to foster Research and Innovation. Potential breakthroughs, discoveries and world firsts are provided access to a funding pool of €80 billion made available over 7 years – as well as access to the private investment attracted by the public money. The project aims to improve Europe’s global competitiveness.

WISER
Among the initiatives to be funded is finding ways of protecting businesses from cybercrime, by putting cyber-risk management at the core of good business practice. One project with this aim is the WISER (Wide Impact Cyber Security Risk Framework) project, which aims to create a framework in which cyber risks are assessed, monitored and mitigated.

Aon joins EU Horizon 2020 initiative to tackle cyber risk

The partnership between Aon and WISER will see the consulting firm help deliver on WISER’s aim of providing a framework on which infrastructure and complex systems can be assessed for vulnerabilities. The analytics tool developed in the project is set to be user-friendly, providing managers and risk managers in understanding such complex systems. The system will allow both public and private users to understand and quantify the consequences of cyber-crime activity on their networks. The project further aims to provide compromised organisations with an easy framework to comply with EU laws on disclosing and reporting on serious breaches.

Commenting on the partnership, Giorgio Aprile, Director Financial Industry Advisory Services at Aon, says: “Aon’s involvement in this WISER project will drive practical business outcomes such as a real time IT assessment platform and a cyber-risk exposure model for non-traditional aspects of cyber risk.”

Bill Peck, Chief Commercial Officer at Aon Risk Solutions, EMEA, adds: “It is a great privilege to be the only financial services organisation partnering on the WISER cyber resilience project. Growing business concern about cyber risk was recently highlighted in Aon’s Global Risk Management Survey. Working under a European Commission initiative will ensure that business, government and legislators’ priorities are aligned to commercial needs across the EU, as this emerging risk continues to develop.”

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Boards of top UK firms must do more on cyber-awareness

06 March 2019 Consultancy.uk

A new report released by the UK Government has found that UK businesses need to do more to build awareness in their firms, if they are to fend off cyber-attackers. The study found that an all-time high of 72% of businesses now see cyber-threats as a top risk, but just less than half of UK boards do not have a comprehensive understanding of the critical assets at risk from cyber-attacks.

Digital technology has revolutionised modern business, with a rate of innovation present in many companies that arguably eclipses that of the industrial revolution. The huge opportunities presented by technology mean that many firms have rushed to digitalise their offerings; but while this means they are able to take advantage  of the latest trends, it has also opened innumerable doors for cyber-criminals looking to use technology to loot corporations from across the globe.

Illustrating the extent to which cyber-crime has boomed in the last decade, in the final quarter of 2018, a study commissioned by Bromium and presented by Dr. Michael McGuire at RSA found that the cyber-crime economy has grown to an estimated $1.5 trillion dollars annually. That is only a conservative estimate – but that conservative figure alone is so large that if it constituted a national GDP, instead of a collection of digital frauds, it would be the world’s 13th largest economy.

Amid this state of play, it is easy to see why cyber-security has become one of the key watchwords of any board room in the 21st century. The cyber-security consulting segment has boomed, with the world’s 10 largest operators in the segment bringing in more than $11 billion in related fees, as businesses tap external expertise to help find areas where they can improve their defences. As noted by a new UK Government report, the legacy of this spike in consulting activity is that almost all UK businesses now have a cyber-security strategy, with only 4% admitting otherwise. 

Cyber threats are increasingly seen as high risk in comparison to other risks that businesses face

This comes at the end of a sea-change in attitudes toward cyber-security over the last five years. According to the 2018 FTSE 350 Cyber Governance Health Check, in 2013, the largest minority of businesses felt cyber-threats represented a low operational risk, at 38%, compared to just 25% who saw it as a very high group risk. Now, the two opinions have seen a dramatic reversal, with only 6% seeing cyber-security as a low threat, compared to a huge 72% of businesses which see it as a very high risk. Considering the high profile hacks that occurred in the interim, this is perhaps not that surprising.

However, while cyber-awareness in general is at an all-time high, this is where the positive news ends. According to the study, while the vast majority of firms in the UK have a cyber-security plan in place, only 46% have a dedicated budget to enact that strategy. Should their financial positions change rapidly in the near future – something increasingly likely with the prospect of a No Deal Brexit still looming over the horizon – then that plan could fall by the wayside, with the funding shortfall exposing firms to even greater financial damage in the near future.

The study, released by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) in March 2019, was undertaken in partnership with Winning Moves and support from EY, KPMGPwC and Deloitte, working with their FTSE 350 clients to participate in the survey. The study also found that while most businesses have incident response plans, most are not testing them: 95% of FTSE 350 businesses have an incident response, but a mere 57% test their crisis incident response plans regularly. With companies facing the consistently evolving threat of cyber-attacks, that could leave major chinks in their armour undiscovered until it is too late.

Board understanding of business-critical assets

Similarly, many firms also seem oblivious to the threat posed by their wider supply chains, which if left unchecked, provide hackers with a blank cheque to access company data. A majority of boards do not recognise supply chain risks beyond the first tier, as 77% of FTSE 350 businesses told researchers they did not recognise the risks associated with businesses in the supply chain with whom they have no direct contact.

Meanwhile, almost half of UK boards do not understand the critical assets at risk from cyber-attacks. 54% of businesses in 2018 rated the board’s understanding of critical information, data assets and systems as comprehensive, while of that, only 12% said understanding was the best it could be. This compares to 43% of boards in 2017 and 32% in 2015/16 stating they had a clear understanding, suggesting that key progress is being made, but also that there is a great deal of room for improvement.

Commenting on the findings, Digital Minister Margot James said, “We know that companies are well aware of the risks, but more needs to be done by boards to make sure that they don’t fall victim to a cyber-attack. This report shows that we still have a long way to go but I am also encouraged to see that some improvements are being made. Cyber-security should never be an add-on for businesses and I would urge all executives to work with the National Cyber Security Centre and take up the government’s advice and training that’s available.”