Find your flux capacitor, dust off the DeLorean, and think back to the beginning of the 1990s. When Back to the Future Part III hit cinemas in 1990, the future was a blur of hover-boards, flying cars and, yes, time machines. Technology hasn’t developed in quite the same way since then, of course.
What’s for certain is that technology has been the main differentiator between office life back then versus the way we work today. While nobody is going to pretend the public sector is the driving force behind revolutionary tech, its relationship with technology has transformed in the past quarter century.
Communications and computing are obvious starters. In the early 1990s the basic tool on a desk was the landline telephone. If you glance around you would see a clunky early desktop computer. You’d almost certainly notice the office fax machine, even if much of today’s millennial audience wouldn’t be able to identify it.
Only 7% of people use basic mobile phones and they are mainly seen as the preserve of yuppies in the City. Communicating between geographical locations is still done by landline, fax for important contracts, and traditional mail for run-of-the-mill admin. Even Microsoft Excel might not be in use yet. There sure is a lot of paper, and filing cabinets, too.
Dial-up internet (remember that noise?) was just coming in. AOL and Outlook were the latest communications tools, and probably haven’t arrived in this historical UK office yet. Moving around tiny volumes of data, measured in kilobytes, between one machine and another, was done on floppy disks.
Enough of the nostalgia.
Today 94% of people have mobile phones and we don’t need to list all the smart staples of today’s workspace, presuming, of course, that we’re in an office, and aren’t Wi-Fi videoconferencing with a smartphone on the train, or just remote working holding a tablet on the couch. Mobile devices now account for 62% of all time spent on the internet.
Software as a service via the Cloud, data volumes growing exponentially every year, and artificial intelligence and predictive analytics becoming a necessity to crunch big data are all transforming communications. With Cloud usage expected to rise to 88% in 2020, we are reaching a point of technology dependency that will alter the risk landscape.
Training no longer needs to be done face to face; data does not need to be stored in filing cabinets (or even in server rooms); remote working is facilitating a more flexible work life; and assets are no longer primarily bricks and mortar. In short, intangible risks have outgrown those arising from physical exposures.
Although there is a plethora of advantages when advancements are quickly adopted, hackers also gravitate towards new developments as they are often more vulnerable to cyber-attacks than well-established technologies.
In 2019 insurance firm Hiscox conducted a cyber readiness report spanning seven countries and 5,400 businesses of varying sizes. It found that the mean figure for losses associated with all cyber incidents among firms reporting attacks, had risen from $229,000 to $369,000 in 2018 – an increase of 61%. Medium and large firms bore a disproportionate amount of the cost but in total two thirds of all firms still reported a cyber-attack in 2018 – up from 45% in 2017. As a result of the growing threat, Cybercrime magazine reports, the global spend on cybersecurity is predicted to rise to $10 billion by 2027.
How should public sector organisations respond to the changing risk landscape?
Firstly, by focusing on and understanding new risks as they arise, monitoring their development and responding by updating risk management plans.
And secondly, ensure that existing insurance cover is robust and comprehensive enough to adapt to whatever direction technology advances into in the future.
There is no doubt that a major shift has happened in the last 25 years. Digitisation has brought efficiently and flexibility gains that were never possible before. Looking forward, adoption of new technology should be handled with caution but should not be feared. Who knows, in the next 25 years we could look forward to flying cars and hoverboards.
Risk Management Partners Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
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Cyber Crime magazine: https://cybersecurityventures.com/security-awareness-training-report/
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