Gartner predicts cyber attack will seriously damage G20 economy by 2015

A G20 country will be hit by major cyber attack by 2015, Garter predicts.

A G20 country will be hit by major cyber attack by 2015, Garter predicts.

In an analysis of the IT trends over the next few years, the analyst firm warns an online attack that targeting multiple critical IT systems simultaneously could cause years of disruption to leading western economies.

The warning comes amid Gartner's urges CIOs and IT directors to prepare for sweeping changes to the IT department, as the strategic value of IT becomes increasingly clear, and businesses free up their staff to use their own equipment at work.

Headline predictions

  1. By 2015, a G20 nation's critical infrastructure will be disrupted and damaged by online sabotage
  2. By 2015, information-smart businesses will increase recognised IT spending per head by 60%
  3. By 2015, tools and automation will eliminate 25% of labour hours associated with IT services
  4. By 2015, 20% of non-IT Global 500 companies will be cloud service providers
  5. By 2014, 90% of organisations will support corporate applications on personal devices
  6. By 2013, 80% of businesses will support a workforce using tablets
  7. By 2015, 10% of your online "friends" will be non-human.

Cyber Attacks

Brian Gammage, vice-president and Gartner fellow, said it was only a matter of time before there was a significant attack against one of the leading economies.

"The US and the UK governments are focused on cyberwarfare being a significant threat. There is no doubt that concern is growing," he said in an interview with Computer Weekly.

Denial of service attacks against Estonia in 2007 and Lithuania in 2008, could be repeated against large countries in the future, he said. Then there was the Stuxnet worm designed to attack Iranian nuclear installations. The denial of service attack against Burma his year, which made it impossible to get messages in and out of the country during the elections, also served as a warning.

"It was only this year we saw stocks fall in Wall Street. That was due to human error, but it could easily have been deliberate," he said.

Gartner urges CIOs to plan ahead, and consider potential security scenarios, including hostile attacks that could disrupt their businesses. And Government's need to prepare more effectively to co-ordinate responses to cyber attacks internationally, the analyst firm argues.

CIOs paid by results

The downturn has exposed IT projects to unprecedented scrutiny, with much tighter integration between the investment arms of businesses and the IT departments.

"We have been through this massive economic downturn which has exposed IT to economic and financial scrutiny," said Gammage.

"Business cases have necessarily become much tighter and stronger in the last few years. That has become an outbound opportunity for IT to demonstrate where they are generating revenue and supporting business investment," he said.

By 2015, the revenue generated by IT projects will be the primary factor in determining the proportion of CIOs annual compensation driven by revenues, said Gammage.

IT spending to soar 60%

Gartner predicts that businesses spending on IT per head will grow by 60% over the next few years. The bad news for CIOs is that this will not necessarily mean bigger IT budgets.

"We are talking about climbing out of the recovery without increasing headcount, at least initially. The IT budget will be constant, but it will be spread over a smaller number of people."

At the same time, businesses have become aware of IT spending outside the IT department, and are bringing those projects under the IT budget, said Gammage.

"The implications of this are going to be important to how organisations measure success. If your IT spending is not going up over time, and is not going up with the industry average, what does that mean ? "

"Does it mean you have too many people? Does it mean the return from your IT investment is too low? Does it mean you are not getting the productivity from your IT investments?"

Software tools will cut 25% of IT effort

Cloud computing will automate staff intensive tasks, such as provisioning staff with IT equipment and software by 2015.

"In this highly competitive market place, IT service providers will use automation to eliminate 25% of the effort needed to deliver their services," said Gammage.

"If they only have the same level of demand, we will see a net outflow of people from service providers, but some will use that saving to lower the cost of services and we will see a rising demand for cloud services," he said.

Global businesses as cloud computing providers

Gartner predicts that businesses will exploit their expertise in their sectors by making their specialist IT services available to rivals over the cloud.

For example, a port dealing with hazardous and dangerous materials could develop a specialist ERP system to deal with those products. It would make sense financially to make the system available to other ports.

"Who else is going to understand that particular requirement?" posed Gammage. "As everyone is exposed to higher security, it's going to focus buyers' attention to those who are genuine experts in the area. It will turn IT capability into outbound services."

Personal devices at work

The internal debate in organisations over whether to allow employees to use their own devices at work, or to limit them to corporate systems, is over, Gartner claims.

"The increasing sophistication of consumer devices is not going to go away. IT departments are looking to gradually move away from looking after devices to planning applications. They aim to get out of the weeds of managing stuff, and focus on using the stuff," he said.

"When I speak to organisations putting together six-year road plans, they accept they are not interested in hardware systems and operating systems. They are interested in putting applications into the hands of the users," he said.

Tablets in the workplace

Eighty percent of organisations will support a workforce using tablets by 2013, Gartner predicts. At a minimum, organisations will have to offer limited network connectivity and help desk support to staff.

"We are not saying that 80% of organisations will give tablet devices to their users. We are saying that some part of their workforce will use these devices for some part of their work, either as a secondary devices or a primary device," said Gammage.

"We run our symposium events during October and November. It was noticeable that a significant number of attendees turned up with iPads. IT can't ignore that," he said.

Non-human online friends

By 2015, Gartner predicts that businesses will deploy automated software agents, known as social bots, to interact with customers on Twitter, Facebook and other networking sites.

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