42% of Executives suffered from a serious cyberattack within the last 2 years

Edward G. | June 21, 2023

Atlas VPN discovered a recently released and first-of-its-kind survey revealing that 42% of executives or their family members experienced a cyberattack, the consequences of which were as severe as a data breach of the whole company. 

In May 2023, a research report jointly conducted by BlackCloak and the Ponemon Institute showed an increasing severity of cyber attacks on executives' digital lives. However, the majority of companies lack the preparedness to prevent or mitigate the potential damage inflicted upon their organizations.

Surveying more than 500 cybersecurity professionals from various industries, the study found that 42% of companies had already encountered cybercriminal attacks targeting executives or their families, leading to severe negative consequences. 

These consequences encompassed the loss of customers or business partners (66%), theft of sensitive financial data (47%), theft of valuable corporate assets like intellectual property (36%), reputation damage (33%), loss of customer or employee data (27%), business strategies (24%), or research and development data (18%).

Dr. Larry Ponemon, Chairman and Founder of the Ponemon Institute, was most concerned that 62% of organizations lack a dedicated team to prevent or respond to cyber attacks on executives and their families. 

Furthermore, 79% of respondents believe that future cyber attacks on these executives are likely, highlighting the urgency of addressing this problem rather than ignoring it.

Dr. Chris Pierson, CEO and Founder of BlackCloak, emphasized that the study's findings align with the firsthand experiences of their team in discussions with senior cybersecurity leaders. 

Corporations are ill-prepared to confront cyber threats targeting executives' private lives. Astonishingly, only 9% of cybersecurity professionals expressed high confidence in their CEO or executives' ability to protect their personal computers from viruses, and merely 22% were confident in leaders securing their personal emails. 

This paints a bleak picture of the digital security hygiene of company executives.

Types of threats targeting leaders

Researchers have observed a diverse range of cybercriminal threats actively targeting executives' personal digital lives. 

Most commonly, hackers are able to expose the home address, personal cell, and personal email of executives, with 57% of respondents having experienced this within the last two years. 

Other threats experienced include malware infections on personal or family devices (56%), email compromise (42%), online impersonation (34%), ransomware (31%), and even physical attacks like swatting (25%).

Nowadays, leaders can not afford to be uneducated about the latest digital threats and actionable steps on how to prevent them. Digital hygiene like strong passwords, phishing awareness, software updates, and security software is only the bare minimum that each executive should be aware of. 

Executives should also consider seeking professional advice from cybersecurity experts or employing the services of specialized security firms to provide additional layers of protection for their personal digital lives.

Closing remarks

Because executives and other high-access personnel represent the weakest points of entry into enterprises, cybercriminals are deliberately seeking holes and exploiting the personal digital lives of these people, making it more difficult for organizations to protect themselves.

It is increasingly important for IT security to discover workable ways to safeguard both their companies' digital assets and the executives' personal online safety. 

Edward G.

Edward G.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.

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