In AI Era, Cyberattacks Become the Top Firm Fear

Generative AI has given hackers new weapons, pushing ransomware attacks to the top of C-suite concerns. How can firms protect themselves?

For the better part of the last year, the possibility of a recession has represented the biggest business risk for leaders. Not anymore: now it’s cybersecurity, with AI playing a supporting role.

According to a new survey, some 36% of C-suite leaders now rank a cyberattack as the “most serious risk” to their business. That puts cyberattacks ahead of talent issues (26%) and a possible recession (23%). Overall, 78% of leaders see cyberattacks as a “moderate or serious” risk. Experts say it’s the latest evidence yet that new advances in generative AI are benefiting not just firms offering innovative new products, but also hackers, whether acting alone or in organized outfits, who are looking to disrupt firms’ data. “The threat level has increased significantly,” says Craig Stephenson, managing director of the CIO/CTO practice in North America for Korn Ferry.

Indeed, the introduction of generative AI into the workplace is striking fear in the hearts of many leaders. While cybersecurity has long been one of the biggest concerns among leaders, the potential damage ChatGPT and other platforms of its ilk can cause in the form of privacy leaks, data breaches, phishing scams, and other cybercrime has heightened the risks to business.

Stephenson says hackers can use generative AI to create code to infiltrate networks, as well as to amplify and rapidly spread viruses.

The new technology also has the potential to expose proprietary information and personal data that’s fed into it. As firms embed generative AI into existing operations, those risks will only grow, says Stephenson, as hackers will have even more opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities in the supply chain, cloud networks, or elsewhere.

In the last two years alone, there have been more than 1.1 billion cyberattacks in all, costing corporations $1.2 billion. Along with AI, experts say, continued geopolitical tension and the shift to hybrid and remote work pose continued and persistent security threats to firms.

Interestingly, generative AI can ultimately be a powerful tool in preventing, detecting, and mitigating cyberattacks, says Michelle Seidel, a senior client partner in the Global Technology practice at Korn Ferry. She says firms can use it to identify where changes are needed. “Generative AI can help companies uncover weak spots in their defenses,” she says.


Learn about Korn Ferry’s AI in the Workplace capabilities.