COVID-19 surge in digital exposes companies to cyber threats


COVID-19 surge in digital interactions has exposed organisations to more cyber security threats, say 76% of enterprise IT leaders

…protecting against cyber attacks is a bigger IT budget priority than digital transformation over the next 12 months

While nearly two thirds (64 per cent) of IT leaders in large UK firms reveal they have made technology changes during the pandemic to handle greater volumes of interaction on their company websites, social media and other digital channels, the security surrounding customer communications remains a major concern. 76 per cent agree (30 per cent strongly) that the increase in digital interactions triggered by the crisis has exposed organisations to more cyber security threats.

The findings come from a survey of 100 technology chiefs in UK firms with 1,000+ employees commissioned by Macro 4, a division of UNICOM® Global.

When respondents were asked how technology could improve inbound and outbound customer communications in their organisation, the top answer was ‘adding extra security measures to protect us and our customers when interacting digitally’, chosen by 46 per cent of those questioned. Notably, three years after the GDPR came into force, around one out of three (36 per cent) said they wanted to improve customer communication by ‘improving protection of customer data to enable compliance with regulations such as the GDPR’.

The speed with which IT teams had to react may have been one of the reasons why security is an ongoing challenge, with 81 per cent of the IT chiefs agreeing (52 per cent strongly) that technology changes had to be fast-tracked by many organisations during the pandemic. 54 per cent of organisations who made changes to enable more digital interactions with customers feel further investment will be required to fix those solutions for the long term.

“Enterprises have acted quickly to meet the additional demand for online interaction during the pandemic, and many have successfully reduced pressure on call centres by extending their digital services. But any digital transformation initiative needs to consider end-to-end security and IT teams will be revisiting those short-term solutions to see how they can be strengthened,” said Jim Allum, Director, Commercial and Technical at Macro 4.

“In many cases organisations are dealing with a mix of new customer channels and older back-end applications and information repositories, some of which won’t have strong security and data privacy measures like multi-factor authentication and redaction built in, so they will be considering adding these retrospectively.”

Looking ahead, security and compliance were revealed as the top priorities when IT leaders were asked about budget plans over the next 12 months. 65 per cent said that maintaining high levels of security to protect against cyber attacks was a high priority, while 54 per cent pointed to ensuring compliance with industry regulations. These were rated above accelerating digital transformation (49 per cent) and using IT to gain a competitive advantage to support business growth (46 per cent).

Notably, despite the possibility of a harsher economic climate as the UK comes out of the pandemic, less than a third (32 per cent) of IT bosses in the UK rate using technology to reduce costs as a high budget priority over the next year.

What are IT leaders’ budget priorities over the next 12 months?

  • Maintaining high levels of security against cyber attacks (65%)
  • Ensuring compliance with industry regulations (54%)
  • Accelerating digital transformation (49%)
  • Creating a competitive advantage to help us grow (46%)
  • Increasing resilience to withstand unexpected challenges like the pandemic (37%)
  • Using IT to reduce costs in response to a more challenging economic climate (32%)
  • Enhancing and modernising our existing technology stack 31%)


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Media contact

Rebecca Morpeth Spayne,
Editor, Security Portfolio

Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 922

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