Tech leaders taking cybersecurity seriously is something of a double-edged sword. While it’s undoubtedly good that organizations are waking up to the genuine threat cyberattacks pose, it’s depressing that they must siphon off so many resources to protect themselves rather than using them for growth and innovation. 

A recent survey of UK technology leaders, run by UK IT Leaders and the Horizon CIO Network, revealed that over half of those surveyed said cybersecurity was their top priority for 2024. Again, this is both a good and bad thing. The cyber threat landscape is about as dangerous as ever been, and it’s comforting that tech leaders recognize this; however, this does not bode well for the broader UK economy. 

In this article, we’ll explore what other priorities UK tech leaders have, why cybersecurity is a priority, and the wider implications of this. 

What are UK Tech Leaders’ Priorities in 2024?  

Of the 314 IT leaders surveyed, these were the priorities that came up most often:

  1. Cybersecurity – 58% 
  2. Digital transformation – 48% 
  3. AI and generative AI – 43% 
  4. Digital Strategy – 40% 
  5. Target operating model – 27% 
  6. Data management – 26% 
  7. Upgrades or implementations of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms – 26% 

Why is Cybersecurity a Priority for UK Tech Leaders?

At first glance, the answer to this question is simple: cybersecurity is the top priority for UK tech leaders because cyberattacks pose a more significant threat than they have done in previous years. But why is that?

Geopolitical Tension

Conflict rages in Israel and Gaza. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine limps on. Civil war grips Sudan. The geopolitical climate hasn’t been this tense since the Cold War, and IT leaders know this. The fact is, the more conflict there is in the world, the higher cyberattack rates rise. Whether threat actors launch attacks to spy on rival nations, knock out critical infrastructure, or even make money in economies brought to their knees by prolonged war, increased conflict always means increased cybercrime. 

Upcoming Elections

More than 2 billion people are eligible to go to the ballot box this year, many in the UK. Elections are a dangerous time for all organizations, not just political ones, as user data is precious to actors seeking to influence results. And this isn’t hypothetical – in 2016, Cambridge Analytica misused personal data to influence the US general election. While cybercriminals themselves may not attempt to swing elections, they will be selling data that could be at a premium and launching more attacks so they can do so.

Recession

The UK economy is in a poor state. The country has been in recession since the end of 2023, the population is in the throes of a cost-of-living crisis, and individuals and organizations alike are feeling the pinch. It’s a well-established fact that economic downturn breeds cybercrime – after the 2008 financial crash, the FBI reported a 22.3% increase in cybercrime – and tech leaders are, encouragingly, prepared for this. 

AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been dominating technology headlines recently. From wild speculation about its impacts to bizarre succession dramas to unprecedented international collaboration, AI has already enormously impacted our world. It is also supercharging cybercrime. A recent NCSC report found that AI will “almost certainly increase the volume and heighten the impact of cyber-attacks over the next two years,” and IT leaders are wise to this. 

What are the Implications of UK Tech Leaders Prioritizing Cybersecurity? 

As we’ve established, it’s broadly a good thing that tech leaders are prioritizing cybersecurity. Threats will increase in frequency and severity throughout 2024, and the UK must be prepared. But looking at the bigger picture reveals a depressing reality. 

Think of an organization and the cybercriminals that attack them as warring nations. Naturally, a country at war spends more on defense. This increase in defense spending is the correct decision, as failing to do so would leave the country vulnerable. But spending more on defense means less money to spend on improving the country. Spending on initiatives to boost the economy or care for the vulnerable quickly falls by the wayside. The same goes for organizations; the more they spend on cybersecurity, the less they can spend on improving the business; this issue is particularly concerning for UK businesses.

As we’ve covered, the UK economy is in a pretty poor state, especially compared to other countries in Europe, and it’s more important than ever that UK businesses invest time and money in innovating and growing. They can’t do that if they’re too focused on cybersecurity. Prioritizing cybersecurity is a necessary evil, but an evil nonetheless. 

The point is that while it is encouraging that UK tech leaders are prioritizing cybersecurity, one shouldn’t be fooled into thinking this is a heartening statistic. It merely indicates how tough the year 2024 is set to be.


Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire.


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