Why Every CEO Should Care About Cybersecurity

September 19, 2017

By Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO, Metro Atlanta Chamber

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As the recent string of high-profile hacks of major U.S. companies from the past five years attests, it’s not if – but when. Large corporations already know they should monitor their cybersecurity and be aware of potential risks. The larger vulnerability comes from our smaller companies and startups – often they are the most vulnerable because they believe that they are too small to be worth targeting, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The New York Times profiled Rokenbok Education last year after they were hacked by a group of criminals who promptly encrypted all of the company’s sensitive information. This attack happened to a company of just seven employees. Atlanta prides itself on being an attractive location for startups and entrepreneurs, and to continue our leadership in this field, it is important that we change the thinking around being cybersecure.

As the president and CEO of a nonprofit, my leadership team and I recognized the need for protection to begin at a base level – with our employees. To this end, we have held training sessions on how to recognize phishing scams and other digital best-practices. Further, our organization is partnering with Baker Donelson and others across the region to produce Atlanta Cyber Week 2017 – a series of events that will highlight the pillars of our metro area’s cybersecurity ecosystem. Ultimately, cybersecurity should not be a one-person job.

Atlanta is fortunate to be well-positioned to be a leading force in cybersecurity. The Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) estimates Georgia is home to 115 information security companies and growing, with over 10,000 network and computer systems engineers. Some of those leading companies include SecureWorks, Ionic Security, NexDefense and Pindrop Security, all listed on the Cybersecurity 500 of top international companies working in the field. This corporate cyber ecosystem is coupled to a strong military cyber ecosystem with the U.S. Army Cyber Command headquarters located in Augusta. Our universities, including Emory, Georgia Tech, Morehouse and Georgia State, are among the top in the nation, producing the next-gen talent who will continue to push the field forward.

Cybersecurity Ventures recently published their Q2 2017 edition of the Cybersecurity 500, an international compilation of leading companies providing cybersecurity solutions and services. They note that spending in this field is predicted to surpass $1 trillion for the five-year period from 2017 to 2021. Further, by 2021, estimated cybercrime damages will result in a $6 trillion annual bill for companies around the world. These numbers speak for themselves when it comes to showing why every CEO should take cybersecurity seriously.

Unfortunately, cyber-attacks, while preventable, are here to stay as a new norm, and we, as members of the business community, have a responsibility to be prepared. The good news is that our metro region continues to be uniquely suited to respond to these new developments.