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Jim Preen reports on a recent Ipsos Mori event which looked at the subject of Cyber crime and Corporate Reputation and presented the results of recent research in this area.

Currently, the vast majority of our crisis exercises and simulations involve cyber crime. A few years ago, bird flu was the threat of choice; these days chickens don’t feature.

So, it was interesting to attend an Ipsos Mori event looking at Cyber crime and Corporate Reputation.

Pollsters may be a little out of fashion having failed to predict the outcome of the last UK general election and scoring pretty badly on the result of the EU referendum, but these findings on cyber crime certainly bear looking at. As the title of the event suggests they were principally concerned with cyber crime’s effect on corporate reputation and how companies should respond.

Ipsos Mori’s insights were based on findings from three groups: senior corporate communicators, MPs and business and finance journalists and the general public.

The first two groups were asked what represented the greatest threat to corporate reputation; cyber security breach (42 percent) tied in first place with poor quality products and services as the major reputational threat companies now face.

MPs ranked poor quality products and services just ahead of a cyber security breach as the major threat; the journalists had poor customer service on 48 percent and cyber on 47 percent.

An MP made a salient point about how quickly the effects of a cyber-attack can be felt: “Poor service, poor products or false claims can have an effect over a period of time. If you have a cyber security breach, your reputation can be in tatters the next day.”

The public were asked their views on how companies deal with a cyber-crime. Trust was a key issue, with 47 percent of those polled having confidence in large organizations to keep their customer data safe.

Drilling down a little deeper it becomes more interesting, not to say confusing. When asked if they might boycott a company after a hack, 56 percent said they might. However, they were then asked if they had ever stopped using a company for a variety of reasons which included: providing poor service, unfair fees and hidden charges, treating workers unfairly, losing customer data etc. Only 12 percent of respondents highlighted a cyber breach as a reason for moving their custom elsewhere.

During a discussion on the best way for businesses to safeguard against cyber crime, preparedness came top. This was seen to include business continuity and crisis management plans and plan testing simulations. Coordination and collaboration across industry were also promoted as a way towards hampering attacks, though how likely businesses are to share sensitive cyber intelligence with their competitors remains a moot point.

As Ipsos MORI’s poll results indicate, a cyber attack can cause a severe dent in a company’s reputation which is then often reflected in its balance sheet. Of course, it must be borne in mind that a loss of reputation is not always a by-product of a cyber-attack; it might be the very reason for the attack in the first place.

The author

Jim Preen is head of media at Crisis Solutions.

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