Physical security threats to global business projected to boom according to new research

Tue 12 Sept 2023
Posted by: Benjamin Roche
Trade News

Security worker watching bank of computer screens

Businesses across the globe could lose as much as 1trn USD to physical threats, according to a new report jointly published by Allied Universal and G4S.

The research surveyed 1,775 chief security officers (CSOs) from companies working across 30 countries whose annual revenue is a combined 2trn USD.

“This is similar to the monetary impact caused by cyber incidents,” the authors write.

“One in four (25%) publicly-listed companies reported a drop in their corporate value in the last 12 months following an external or internal security incident.”

‘Unrest’ anticipated

‘Economic unrest’, including recessions, is cited as the main culprit in the report’s projections of heightened physical security risk to businesses.

Among the reasons are high inflation rates across the world, the aftershocks of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing supply chain shocks caused by the war in Ukraine.

Social unrest comes in second, with 35% anticipating a threat as a result compared with 31% last year.

From fraud to phishing

The physical types of security threats investigated in the report included fraud, which was considered to be the biggest external threat to companies.

A total of 25% of CSOs queried say they expect a fraudulent attack in the next twelve months, with phishing attacks and theft expected by 24% and 23%, respectively.

The experts’ perspectives

Writing on his personal perspective as part of the Allied-G4S report, Shell global asset protection manager Antony Bailey argues that “technology is an increasingly integral part of our defences”.

He makes the case for security professionals trained in “soft skills” to accommodate the changing shape of corporate security threats.

The threat from within

It is not only external threats like fraud and theft that take the focus of the report.

Misuse of company data, one of several internal physical security threats highlighted, was a concern for 30%—as was internal fraud.

The leak of sensitive information, meanwhile, is highlighted as the largest expected internal threat by CSOs at European firms, with 30% citing it—the global number is higher again, at 36%.

Cyber attacks on physical defence

Cyber security threats are linked with physical security threats in the report, with 90% of those queried noting that electronic attacks threaten physical security systems.

The focus of board-level management often remained more on the former than the latter, however, according to 88%.

Concerns were voiced on the costs surrounding technological adaptation to physical threats by 41%.

Similar numbers, however, also said that they were looking to use the likes of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered surveillance, as well as biometrics and facial recognition, in the next five years.

Ransomware in the spotlight

Another security assessment reported this week in the FT has turned directly to cyber security. It is jointly issued by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, part of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), and the National Crime Agency (NCA).

That report re-emphasises the cyber threat to business. The assessment finds that ransomware attacks in particular have “thrived on businesses’ weak online security”, while cyber criminals sell access to compromised firms and their data online.

Businesses sometimes fail to implement simple cyber security measures, including multi-factor authentication, which would stop a “majority” of ransomware attacks, the report argues.