Tara McGeehan

Tara McGeehan

President, CGI UK and Australia

As I watch the news and talk to senior clients and my peers in leading organisations the issue of cyber security is a constant theme. In today’s increasingly uncertain and interconnected digital world, the impact of cyber threats is far-reaching, extending beyond the immediate confines of breached systems and compromised data be that personal customer data or corporate technical information.

Every organisation faces a complex landscape of challenges where cyber security plays a vital role. These challenges manifest on both the macro and micro levels, affecting not only the entities that are targeted but also reverberating across industries, economies and societies at large.

Macro Impacts: Threats to stability and security

If cyber-attacks are allowed to succeed, they could pose significant challenges to the stability and security of entire industries and lead to profound economic consequences, potentially disrupting critical infrastructure, supply chains and financial systems – the very backbone of society.

Furthermore, in an increasingly uncertain world, cyber warfare and espionage are now increasingly being utilised, with nations engaging in cyber operations to gain strategic advantages and undermine adversaries. Such activities can escalate tensions between nations, leading to diplomatic crises and even in certain cases, conflicts. The destabilising impact can be felt throughout all sectors and organisations, whether large or small, weakening economies and inhibiting prosperity.

As the world increasingly moves to be more digitally connected, we all need to be able to trust the digital systems which are designed and intended to enrich our lives. From ransomware attacks that target healthcare facilities and financial institutions to misinformation campaigns spreading social discord or the use of potentially AI-created imagery to gain trust, the societal impacts of not taking cyber threats seriously could be wide-ranging and multifaceted.

Micro Impacts: Organisational resilience

At the micro level, organisations must ensure they are resilient against cyber-attacks Cyber-attacks can disrupt internal operations, causing system outages, service delivery delays, and productivity loss. Before any attack happens, organisations must assess and manage security vulnerabilities so they can be confident their organisation is secure, compliant and protecting data.

Legal and regulatory challenges and considerations

Organisations need to be aware they may face legal and regulatory challenges in the aftermath of cyber incidents, including lawsuits, investigations, personal claims and more rigorous compliance audits. Navigating the complex landscape of data protection laws and regulatory requirements serves only to add another layer of complexity to the recovery from such incidents.

Holistic approach: Preparedness and collaboration

Considering the wide-ranging macro and micro impacts that organisations could face, they must adopt a proactive and holistic approach to cyber security preparedness. Defining a cyber risk assessment is an organisational imperative to identify potential vulnerabilities and prioritise mitigation efforts based on the likelihood and potential impact of cyber threats.

A robust and long-lasting cyber security strategy must continuously develop with regular reviewing (testing and exercising) incident response and resilience plans to ensure swift and effective responses to cyber-attacks can be achieved. This includes establishing clear protocols for incident detention, containment, remediation, and communication.

Suppose we are to effectively tackle wide-scale cyber incidents. In that case, organisations must foster collaboration and information sharing within and across industries, both public and private sectors, to enhance collective cybersecurity resilience. Participating in industry-specific information sharing and analysis, and supporting centres like the National Cyber Security Centre, law enforcement and threat intelligence sharing platforms can provide valuable insights into emerging threats and best practices not just to keep individual organisations safe but the wider industries, public sector organisations, SMEs and society in general.

And, as the threats increase, so does the need for cyber skills, so it is vital to invest in both technology and talent. Organisations must adopt a comprehensive cyber strategy and should invest in cutting-edge cyber security technologies, talent and partners. This includes deploying advanced threat detection and prevention tools, as well as fostering a culture of cyber security awareness and vigilance among employees. Furthermore, I believe that the Tech sector has a central role to play in creating excitement and interest of careers in IT and specifically cyber security. As we look towards the future and the inevitability of increased and more sophisticated cyber threats, developing a future pipeline of skills from early years to university and beyond is imperative.

Emerging technologies and automation also have a key role to play in protecting and preventing cyber threats. Deploying automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies can augment cyber security operations and alleviate skills shortages. Implementing automated threat detection and response systems, as well as AI-driven analytics platforms can also enhance efficiency and effectiveness in detecting and mitigating cyber threats. The implementation of continuous monitoring solutions offers organisations the ability to detect and respond to cyber threats in real-time, mitigating and preventing damage as attacks occur.

Regulatory compliance and governance

Organisations must constantly stay abreast of evolving regulatory requirements and industry standards related to cyber security. Robust governance and assurance structures, along with compliance mechanisms must be implemented to ensure ongoing adherence to legal and regulatory obligations.

Looking to the future

The impacts of cyber threats extend far beyond the confines of individual organisations, affecting entire sectors, economies, and societies. By recognising and preparing for macro and micro impacts, organisations can enhance their resilience in the face of evolving cyber threats. To develop a robust cyber strategy for the future, organisations and their leadership must have the ability to assess the risks, protect their business and continue to operate with confidence. By doing so they will be better able to safeguard their operations, reputation and bottom line, in an increasingly digital environment and position themselves to navigate the complexities of the new world of cyber with robust resilience and agility.

Find out more about identifying cyber threats and protecting your organisation

About this author

Tara McGeehan

Tara McGeehan

President, CGI UK and Australia

Tara McGeehan was appointed President of CGI’s UK Operations in January 2018 and Australia operations were added to her responsibilities in May 2019.   She leads a multi-national and culturally diverse team of approximately 6,000 professionals and consultants and is passionate about diversity and encouraging ...