Britain is a leader in e-commerce – it must also lead in cyber security

Cyber security a big issue for the IoD in 2016

When it comes to cyber security, government, individuals and business must all recognise that online safety is now critical. Failing to tackle it threatens the whole economy, writes James Sproule

Cyber security was once the quintessential ‘boring but important’ subject. No longer. Today, cyber security is critically important to any business which wishes to operate online or in the cloud and to engage in social media. In other words, every company, in more or less everything it does, has to be aware of the threats and challenges.

With this in mind, the IoD has commissioned a report, undertaken by one of the UK’s foremost experts on the subject, Professor Richard Benham. The report is part of a wider IoD campaign that will be undertaken over the course of 2016 helping to explore issues of great importance to businesses and the country’s policymakers alike.

It is striking that it is only when we stop and look back over the events of 2015 that we truly appreciate the pace of change in technology and its increasing impact on the UK, be it in public or private sector. The UK is at the forefront of e-commerce; indeed, at 12.5 per cent, it leads the world in terms of the percentage of the economy that takes place online. All well and good, but such a leading position also leaves the country uniquely vulnerable to cyber attack.

We have all grown accustomed to seeing technology change at an ever-faster pace and, for the most part, people have been happy to embrace the revolution, ushering in businesses and processes that have allowed greater productivity, better customer experiences and a reduction in costs. The internet continues to allow new and existing businesses of all sizes to access and trade digitally at ever-increasing levels in a global marketplace. But there is an unspoken assumption here, that the internet is safe.

The challenge is to counter a global threat with domestic UK law and practices. Optimistically, such a situation presents an opportunity for the UK to set the global standard and best practice. But time is of the essence: cyber hackers and cyber terrorists are not restricted by geographic boundaries and they target everyone, from governments to global corporations to individual citizens. The threats we see today are at an all-time high in terms of sophistication and volume and these will only increase as consumers demand quicker and easier interaction.

Cyber security is no longer just about safeguarding technology, it is the protection of ourselves in our digital realm. This stretches from infrastructure, such as energy distribution networks, to particular smartphone apps to the broader Internet of Things. The fragility of the whole economy was brought home in the lorry drivers’ strike of 2000 where a short disruption in the physical supply chain exposed much brittleness. Given the speed at which the UK is adopting e-commerce, this fragility will only increase. As it grows, the importance of an effective cyber-security plan rises with it.

James Sproule is the IoD’s chief economist and director of policy


The IoD, in association with Barclays, has produced a report on cyber crime and business

Find out more and download the report here

Cyber security briefings for IoD members

Click here to log in to exclusive content on cyber security for IoD members (opens new page)

The IoD Cyber Security Summit 2017

Learn about the emerging global and national trends in the cyber crime arena, and receive practical steps on what you can do to protect your business at the IoD Cyber Security Summit 2017 on 27 March at 116 Pall Mall. Book tickets here

About author

James Sproule

James Sproule

James Sproule has been Chief Economist and Director of Policy for the Institute of Directors since January 2014. Prior to joining the IoD James led Accenture’s UK Research and Global Capital Markets Research. He started his financial career as a merchant bank economist working with both Bankers Trust, Deutsche Bank and Dresdner Kleinwort, and eventually helped to found the boutique bank Augusta and Company.

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