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Cyber Crises Are Leading Cause of Fear for Corporate Communications Experts in 2024

MARKETINGCyber Crises Are Leading Cause of Fear for Corporate Communications Experts in 2024

55% of corporate communications experts fear crises in 2024. This is a high figure and the level of fear has been consistently high for several years, albeit with a slight downward tendency. This year, however, most threats are correlated to the internet, which sees a steep rise in fears.

This data comes from the Crisisometer – a study on crisis communication conducted for several years by Alert Media Communications. This seventh edition provides analysis of threats predicted for the upcoming 2024 but also highlights trends in specific areas. Over several years, Crisisometer, like litmus paper, shows changes in areas requiring special care, and the issues that experts fear, based on their experience. This allows prediction of potential problems and provides a warning or assistance in preparing companies or organizations.

Where are the threats lurking

As in each year, experts have identified the biggest challenges they predict they will have to face. Current results show that most fears come from the internet. Up to 44% of respondents identified the network as the source of the biggest threats. 30% expect that their corporation’s image problems will stem from inflation and economic difficulties, and 27% – from the negative impact of politics on the life of the company and organization. As fear of online crises has significantly grown – from 32% last year to 44%, leading the current study – the focus will be precisely on these.

Cyber crises are growing increasingly scary

A deeper analysis of the results suggests 38% of business representatives and a whopping 62% of institutional representatives fear electronic crises. The variation between the two sectors is significant. Interestingly, both groups experienced a significant increase in fears over the past year, although among institutions, the increase was twice as large. The increase in the private sector companies was 11 percentage points, and in institutions – 23 pp. This is a significant difference – both between categories and year on year.

The online crisis category has changed greatly compared to last year. However, what has remained unchanged for many years is the high level of fear of crises resulting from fake news. Today, in the Crisisometer, they are most frequently mentioned as potential causes of crises: 44% of respondents indicated them as a threat to their corporation’s image. But the subsequent positions have changed significantly compared to 2023. Last year and the year before, the second most common cause of expected problems were waves of negative comments or consumer opinions. This year, data leaks – or ‘cyber incidents’ – have taken the lead.

We present a deeper analysis of individual Crisisometer positions below, showing both trends and the division of threats in the private and public sectors. In many cases, the indications differ, and the resulting differences are very interesting.

Fake news still on top

We have been observing fake news with great interest for many years, especially compared to other internet threats. While all other answers shift up and down the scale each year depending on circumstances or significant changes in the world, fake news always ranks high. Each year. Previous Crisisometer data confirmed the tendency: fear of fake news was the most frequently indicated concern – about 51% of all specialists were afraid of online crises resulting from fake news in 2023. This is not surprising, given the trend that has been strengthening for a few years, reinforced by events accompanying the war in Ukraine or election campaigns. And that’s in the conditions of an infodemic. Information about disinformation actions primarily by Russia and many other environments increased fear of them, but it also raised society’s awareness levels.

The reason for the current situation (the persistently high level of fear) is probably that fake news is difficult to fight against. There are tools debunking false messages, but problem lies with the time it takes for these to debunk. The most reliable are fact-checking agencies, which work intensively to detect fake news and raise public awareness. However, even if fact-checkers work efficiently, establishing the truth takes some time, and that is precisely the time during which a false thesis is accepted. The power of debunking a lie is not as strong as the lie itself. In a situation where the harmfulness of fake news causes concern in an organization, it is worth learning about the operation and procedures of fact-checking agencies: establish contact, familiarize yourself with their work and capabilities, so in case of any problems you know what to do and who to contact. Jakub Śliż, president of the Pravda Association, one of the organizations conducting fact-checking, encourages this: “Disinformation in the midst of an infodemic is seriously dangerous and we have a mission to not only promote true information but also educate. Raise awareness. It is important for employees of companies and institutions to be able to recognize disinformation and identify its sources; knowledge of how to react properly and hence it is always worth getting in touch if there are concerns in this area”.

Data leaks and cyberattacks are setting off the alarm

According to the Crisisometer, potential data leaks are the second biggest nightmare of experts. It should be noted that according to security specialists, i.e., internet security experts, the most common cause of data leaks is human error. Regardless of the cause, fears of this threat grew by 10 percentage points (to 37%) over 2023, which is a significant difference. Concerns about cyberattacks also increased similarly (up 11 pp compared to last year) and now stand at 32%, ranking fourth.

Interestingly, in the 2021 survey (two years ago) predicting for 2022, respondents ranked the likelihood of both problems even higher than they do now: data leaks scored 39%, and cyberattacks – 38%. This means that in three years, both categories were initially high, then fell last year, and have jumped again now. Probably, the reason for this situation was that the outbreak of war in Ukraine and increased activities in cyberspace, particularly by Russian criminals, led to heightened alertness in this regard. Over the next year, the situation stabilized, though it did not calm down in reality. We probably got used to it. But now, we are increasingly hearing about incidents in companies and organizations, many of us have simply heard about such cases not so much from the media, but from the accounts of victims. And that simply seems closer than media coverage. Statistics are relentless and show

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