A majority of businesses now regard state-sponsored or led attacks as a major threat, marking a potentially critical shift in perception, according to new research from the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The study, sponsored by the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, is compiled from interviews with over 500 director-level or above executives from businesses in Asia-Pacific, Europe and the United States.

Conducted before the SolarWinds campaign even came to light, the research nevertheless revealed that 80% are concerned about falling victim to a nation state attack, with a majority claiming these worries have increased over the past five years.

What’s more, they want their respective governments to play a bigger role in meeting these challenges: 60% said their country only offers a medium or low-level of protection.

“Although cyber-attacks are a silent threat, they can have devastating and long-lasting effects on our society. Given the recent escalation of tensions in cyberspace, cooperation between governments is becoming increasingly complicated as political systems differ and technological competition rises,” said Marietje Schaake, president of the CyberPeace Institute.

“This survey is an important call to action for democratic governments to step up and think more inclusively about the kind of cyber-assistance they provide to protect companies in key sectors, and ultimately civilians.”

Worryingly, the study also pointed to a false sense of security among the senior executives interviewed, potentially because they have little direct experience of being attacked.

Over two-thirds (68%) of executives said they feel their organization is “very” or “completely” prepared to deal with a cyber-attack.

Annalaura Gallo, secretariat of the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, said she hoped the survey would start a global conversation around the topic.

“This survey shows that businesses see state-led and sponsored cyber-attacks as a pressing issue that demands governments act nationally and internationally,” she added.

“We need agreement at the United Nations and the involvement of business and civil society through multi-stakeholder forums, such as the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace.”

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