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What Business Leaders Need To Understand About Cyber Security And Risk

Cyber-attacks are on the rise in the digital era—here is what business leaders need to know about navigating cyber security

Cyber-attacks happen every 39 seconds worldwide. While such attacks were once considered the sole concern of IT or specialized tech departments, the surge in malicious incidents means that business leaders need to understand how to mitigate cyber risks.

A common myth about cyber-attacks is that they’re committed by geeky teenagers in bedrooms, yet cyber-attacks are becoming more and more sophisticated in the digital age with coordinated attacks happening at a rapid rate.

We spoke to a cyber security expert at Lancaster University to find out what business leaders need to be aware of concerning cyber security and risk.

Cyber security challenges are everywhere 

As businesses enter an era of digital transformation, understanding cyber security and risk has never been more pressing. 

“There’s no business that doesn’t have a digital footprint of some kind,” says Daniel Prince, a professor in security and protection science within the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University.

Daniel (pictured) is the co-director of the university’s Cyber Security Executive MBA (Cyber EMBA), delivered in conjunction with Lancaster University Management School and cyber security experts, Templar Executives.  0b0c32ecfbc8bf00867d6846139c5700776a2c44.png

“We’re seeing increased legislation around the protection of information in the digital estate—this emphasizes that computer networks are just as important as the physical state,” he says.

Since businesses transition to digital platforms, more and more sensitive information and data is placed at risk. If this personal data were to get into the wrong hands through either malicious misuse of information or accidental lack of protection, this could lead to individual and economic harm.

“Just as it’s important to protect the health and wellbeing of a company, it’s important to protect this digital information,” he says.

Recent cases over the years have proven that cyber security breaches or attacks can happen in a myriad of ways.

For example, a self-inflicted cyber security breach publicized personal information of officers in the Police Service of Northern Ireland in 2023.

Meanwhile, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) was involved in the WannaCry ransomware attack in 2017, which infected 200,000 personal computers across 156 countries.  

These attacks not only impact public and employee trust, but can cost organizations billions to fix. 

It’s not just large organizations that will be impacted. 43% of cyber-attacks target small businesses, according to AAG.

Business leaders need a holistic understanding of risks 

One of the main lessons from the recent onslaught of cyber-attacks is that business leaders need to understand the risks associated with leading a business in a digital world.

“Businesses can’t be in the situation where senior managers fail to understand the fabric of the business and avoid taking a proactive approach to managing risks,” says Daniel. 

The Cyber Security EMBA is a part-time two-year program that aims to help middle and senior managers blend their generalist business skills with a technical mind set. 

The program is split evenly between leadership and management topics and business-driven cyber security topics, such as courses in Cyber Security Risk Management and Cyber Security Core Technologies. 

Executive MBAs then use their learnings in three challenge-led exercises that revolve around solving real-world cyber security issues. 

This could involve exercises on how to brief the press during a high-profile incident, how to speak with your team, and how to build a suitable response recovery to maintain business continuity. 

Understanding cybersecurity can strengthen decision-making 

Learning about cyber security and risk isn’t just about preparing to manage potential incidents, it’s also about improving your skills as a business leader.

“Strong business leaders don’t necessary need to know everything about what they’re leading,” says Daniel, “it’s about having enough knowledge to empower the culture of the organization to make a decision or supporting decision-making within the team.”

Regardless of which industry you’re working in, decision-making skills are integral to strong leadership.

“Any manager is a risk manager who weighs up opportunities versus risks,” says Daniel.

“Knowing the risks associated with your business’ digital footprint is vitally important to manage overall risks.”

This creates an interesting dichotomy: being able to manage risks means that businesses are then able to take on more risks, which is essential to being agile and innovative in a competitive landscape. 

“You wouldn’t go into a global territory without recognizing global risks,” says Daniel.

The Cyber EMBA at Lancaster incorporates global elements into the program, with courses in Governance and Global Operations and Marketing Management in the Cyber Context.

EMBA students can harness their decision-making skills when applying their learnings in the capstone module, which involves tackling a challenge in their own company.

You might be wondering how a cyber business degree program can stay abreast of the rapidly changing developments in the industry.

To ensure the Cyber EMBA is relevant, the program works with external cyber security consultants, as well as experts from both the Management School and the School of Computing and Communications. 

The EMBA is certified by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). 

Artificial intelligence: what it means for the future of cyber security and risk management

With the advent of generative large language models such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the increasing use of AI tools and platforms is likely to pose new challenges and risks within cyber security.

“Generative AI tools make information more readily accessible, so businesses need to understand how to embrace these platforms while recognizing associated risks,” says Daniel.

While AI offers endless opportunities for businesses, this automation can make cyber attackers more efficient and quicker, creating more plausible-sounding spam emails.

“If the attackers are getting more sophisticated, business leaders need to ask themselves what the implications for organizations are.”

With new AI tools and platforms being created day by day, there’s a need for business leaders to be ready to tackle unfamiliar challenges at a moment’s notice. 

One of the main aspects of the Cyber EMBA, says Daniel, is that it equips business leaders with the critical analysis skills necessary to combat challenges they haven’t encountered before. 

“We’re teaching business leaders to learn and be innovative, using the same set of skills to apply to different problems,” he concludes.  

 BB Insights explores the latest research and trends from the business school classroom, drawing on the expertise of world-leading professors to inspire and inform current and future leaders. 

Student Reviews

Lancaster University Management School




An exceptional educational establishment in the North West of England.

This university has been a fantastic life experience as well as a great academic one. I first decided to go to Lancaster University Management School due to its exceptional business education facilities and have not been disappointed. I recommend the university to anybody that wants to put themselves in a strong position for a career upon graduation.




On Campus

Student Ambassador

Overall, the instruction is decent, however it also depends on your department. The people are friendly, in my opinion. The sporting events are enjoyable, and there is a good sense of community. Although the city is quite remote, it is nonetheless attractive.




Lancaster University honest review

The education system in the university is excellent especially that of the Management School. The campus has great facilities for students to study and live in a relaxed manner. The students can engage in various activities through the socities.




Great opportunities to think beyond

Lancaster University provides a lot of good opportunities to think beyond.There Entrepreneurship in residence program helps students to meet and seek guidance about entrepreneurship and the challenges.Their Work in progress program help to fabricate your startup idea and further to pitch to the potential investors.Apart from that there are lot of programs like Enactus, guest lectures and guidance from seniors to help and shape your career needs. They provide lot of opportunities to shape up your employability skills.




On Campus

A top university in the UK for management science!

If you’re interested in management science studies, Lancaster University is one of the top universities in the UK. The faculty is renowned and have a sterling reputation for research in management science. Candidates specifically interested in Forecasting would find the Centre for Marketing Analytics and Forecasting especially relevant to their field. Besides, the ROI is good as the overall cost compared to other universities is less.




Great university for academia – not great for 'entrepreneurs'

Please keep in mind that my review is nuanced by my expectations of an Entrepreneurship degree :) I came to Lancaster University because it was one of the top universities to have a course in Entrepreneurship. After 4 years in this degree, my most valuable experience has been my placement and not the actual course. The course is heavily focused on impractical elements, which is a bit odd for an Entrepreneurship degree. There are some modules that involve hands-on work but the faculty support for such things has not been great. My course also involved a lot of teamwork which has been fantastic and really prepared me when it comes to dealing with the diversity of opinions. In terms of career prospects, the management school does A LOT to host events, workshops and support sessions to help you build up your employability skills. Although, I wish there was more acknowledgement of SMEs/startups as a viable career option. The entrepreneurship team which is meant to support budding businesses is really stepping up their game with tons of guest speakers, workshops and pitching opportunities. The location is a concern if you're not in STEM, Law or Accounting and Finance. Business requires networking with the broader community. However, for Lancaster students, the best bet is a trip down to Manchester or London. On the flip side, living in Lancaster is much cheaper! Overall, if the purpose of your university experience is to receive top academic education and have great facilities at your disposal, Lancaster is a great choice. But if you want to be in business and entrepreneurship, I would look elsewhere.