In a world of fast-moving technological developments, CEOs are expected to keep up with the latest innovations, but are they doing enough to protect their companies from the downside of the internet?

KPMG International recently surveyed more than 1,200 chief executives from some of the world’s largest companies in an attempt to find out their biggest concerns.

Despite the obvious benefits that technological advances bring to companies, business leaders are facing fresh challenges as cyber criminals find ever more sophisticated ways to launch attacks against their organizations.

Once only an afterthought, cybersecurity has become a major concern for many CEOs. One in five business leaders now list information security as the risk they are most concerned about, while a third see cybersecurity as the issue with the biggest impact on their company.

Are companies prepared for cyberattacks?

Cyberattacks are happening more frequently, yet half of CEOs surveyed admit they are not fully prepared for a future cyber event, according to the KPMG report.

Many CEOs may also be underestimating the risks of an online security breach. Only 50% of those surveyed had appointed a cybersecurity executive, and around one-fifth said they were not planning to hire one at all.

“The root cause is often a failure of imagination," says Malcolm Marshall, Global Head of Cyber Security at KPMG; specifically a "failure to imagine the sophistication and persistence of their attackers”.

KPMG has highlighted two important cybersecurity measures – upgrading of current technology, and changes to external processes – however, more than 10% of companies are not planning to address either of these areas.

How cybersecurity can be a competitive advantage

Almost all CEOs are concerned about the loyalty of their customers, battling with growing competition and the risk of losing customers, and according to KPMG, this links in with almost three-quarters struggling to keep up with developments in technology. New developments in technology by competitors are likely to draw consumers away.

More than half of CEOs are concerned about the relevance of their products and services.

Innovative companies are finding ways to turn security measures into a competitive advantage by acknowledging that cybersecurity should be worked into products and services in the design stage, and not as an afterthought to be handled by the IT department.

Over 75% of cyberattackers exploit the basic failures of companies, so KPMG recommends the first step in guarding against cyber hacks is to get the basics right. Looking after companies’ most critical assets is second on the list, followed by investing in learning about cyberattackers in order to anticipate their moves.

KPMG’s final tip is to “treat cyber risk as an opportunity to look closely at your business, implement cyber strategy throughout your organization and find new ways to ‘delight customers’”.