Cybersecurity control failures was listed as the top emerging risk in the first quarter of 2021, according to the latest Gartner, Inc. Emerging Risks Monitor Report.
The global poll of 165 senior executives found that 67% of respondents singled out cybersecurity risk as a major concern, with consistency across all geographic regions and most industries.
This was despite a myriad of risks resulting from the pandemic, such as the new work environment and environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns.
“Many organizations were forced to implement quick fixes to serious operational gaps as a result of their initial pandemic responses,” said Matt Shinkman, vice president with the Gartner Risk and Audit Practice.
“Nowhere has that been more apparent than in cybersecurity policies that have prioritized on-premises security over secure remote work access. Executives responsible for these areas are realizing that the time to enact more sustainable and robust policies is now.”
Internal risks related to a company’s operational and cultural capacities continued to be most pressing to the executives polled and made up the top five emerging risks selected in Q1.
Executive concerns around cybersecurity control failures are thought to stem from the hasty implementation of remote work brought on by the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns.
Gartner notes that IT teams were often forced to quickly scale up VPN access to the entire organization, and security teams had to immediately reorient their risk postures from a focus on securing on-premises operations to developing remote work access policies on the fly.
While access management issues were a focus of the initial response, consensus among executives polled suggests that more work needs to be done as increased remote work becomes a permanent feature of the new work environment.
In addition to ranking first on the list of emerging risks this quarter, cybersecurity control failures also ranked third overall in ‘risk velocity,’ which tracks how fast-moving the risk is and how impactful it would be should it materialize.
Failures in cybersecurity control trailed only a protracted vaccine rollout and reputational risks from citizen journalism in the risk velocity analysis.
“Risk velocity can help executives see blind spots of emerging risks that might be moving towards an organization quickly, but aren’t appreciated yet by their peers,” Shinkman explained. “However, in the case of cybersecurity risk, it’s good to see that the level of awareness among executives matches the severity of the risk facing their organizations.”