BT’s network has to deal with “hundreds of thousands” of cyber attacks every day, its chief executive has told World Economic Forum delegates in Davos. Gavin Patterson said the attacks, which have increased by 1,000 per cent in the last 18 months, were also becoming more advanced.

“The risk is changing in its nature and becoming more sophisticated,” he said. “While I think there is a recognition at board level, I’m not convinced that there is a high technical understanding.”

Patterson added that the actors behind the attacks has “changed significantly” and that rather than finding weaknesses in a firm’s security wall, they instead now try to “blow up the wall”.

He explained that the situation has changed since BT fought off 200 million attacks in four weeks when it provided the security for the London 2012 Olympics.

“How do you identify the signal from the noise?” he asked. “The sheer barrage of attacks means you have to be able to identify the one that can get through your defences.”

Patterson added that cyber criminals are turning to the financial industry because “that is where the money is”, with a third of attacks targeting the sector.

He also stressed that firms need to be more aware of the risk posed by insider threats.

Cyber breaches and insider threats were found to be the two fastest-growing risks for company executives in 2016 in a recent survey by EY. And two thirds of consumers expect to have their financial information hacked this year, highlighting hackers’ intent on breaching the financial sector.

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