Ideas for Leaders #534

CFO Survey: Most Hit by Hackers Otherwise Optimistic

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Key Concept

New research from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business global survey of CFOs reveals that 80% of companies have been hacked. Small and medium-sized businesses have been the hardest hit. Other results from the CFO survey include expectations of wage hikes and the impact of the strong U.S. dollar on U.S. exports.

Idea Summary

Highlighting the continuing challenge of information systems security, more than 80% of companies around the world have been hacked by cyber-criminals, including more than 80% of companies in the U.S., and more than 85% of companies in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa, according to a worldwide survey of CFOs. The goal in these attacks is to steal, change or make public confidential information.

Although breaches of major companies such as Target make the news, the worst hit are the small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In the U.S., 85% of firms with fewer than 1,000 employees have been successfully hacked, compared to 60% of larger firms.

Those figures may even be underestimating the damage, as many companies may not realize that their systems have been penetrated, according to survey director John Graham, a professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

The CFO Global Business Outlook survey, conducted quarterly by Duke Fuqua, is based on responses from more than 1,000 CFOs in public and private companies around the world. Other results of the second quarter survey include:

  • Wages in the U.S. are expected to increase. U.S. CFOs expected wages to increase by more than 3% in the coming year, and hiring to increase by more than 2%. The technology, services and consulting, health care, and construction industries is expected to see the strongest wage and employment growth.
  • The strong dollar hurts U.S. exporters. More than 80% of companies with at least a quarter of their sales overseas are being hit by the strong dollar; Europe and Japan, meanwhile, are benefitting.
  • CFOs are optimistic in U.S., Asia and Europe, less optimistic in Africa and Latin America. On a scale of 1 to 100, both U.S. and Asian CFOs rate the global economic outlook at 63, and European CFOs at 60. The U.S. and Asians scores are slightly down from previous years while European optimism is at its second highest level since 2007. With ratings of 44 and 53 respectively, the outlook in Africa and Latin America remains low. Latin American ratings differ widely by country, however — from Brazil’s 36 to Mexico’s 63.

Business Application

SMEs are most susceptible to hackers because they have dedicated less resources to cyber-security. However, when it comes to investing in securing your information systems, perhaps an old proverb applies to the new technology: not to be penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Some suggested security steps:

  • Arrange a “friendly hack” to test the security of your system.
  • Hire new data security staff with increasing needs.
  • Require data security training for employees.
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Idea conceived

  • June 2015

Idea posted

  • July 2015

DOI number



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