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Building on Trust

Reinventing the Internet to Secure the Digital Economy

The Internet is growing fragile

Since its introduction, the Internet has been a fundamental pillar of the modern world, a catalyst for increased connectivity and innovations that continue to evolve and drive economic growth.

But today, the Internet is facing many challenges. Malicious cybercriminals threaten the security of the digital economy, which becomes more fragile with each attack. The Internet, which was once a tool for information sharing and communication, has grown increasingly complex, and new, digital innovations are outpacing the ability to keep it secure. Trust in our digital economy now hangs in the balance, putting significant value at risk.

For CEOs, the task is clear: Build a trustworthy digital economy that safeguards our future prosperity.

The stakes are high. We’ve found that a trusted digital economy could stimulate 2.8 percent in additional growth for large organizations over the next five years, translating into $5.2 trillion in value creation opportunities for society as a whole. CEOs can capitalize on this opportunity and build a new digital economy that stands on a foundation of trust. Here’s how.

Realizing the value of a
trustworthy digital economy

Why CEOs?

Our research shows that corporate leaders have the influence needed to collaboratively address these overarching issues. They are in a unique position to help secure the digital economy by improving the Internet’s global governance. Furthermore, they are equipped to safeguard their ecosystem of partners and embrace leading-edge technologies that support a secure Internet.

Efforts have already been made by corporate leaders to instill greater trust in our digital economy, with many CEOs believing they have been responsive in addressing the problem. Data shows they have increased spending on cybersecurity and have handled some threats with markedly successful results. But there have also been notable failures, with new threats constantly emerging. What’s needed is a new, top-down, proactive approach. The opportunity to rebuild a trustworthy ecosystem exists—CEOs can lay the first stone.

Diagnosing the problem:
An insecure Internet

Surveying the damage

CEOs looking to innovate confidently and safely should consider making Internet security a driving force in their business model. By doing so, they’ll be able to leverage their unique vantage point and gain greater insight into where and why the Internet has grown fragile. While some of the issues are due to a constantly evolving digital landscape, other challenges are embedded in the Internet’s infrastructure.

Initially, security considerations for the Internet were focused on preventing physical failures, not on the complex issues of today (identity and data veracity, hyperconnectivity brought on by the Internet of Things (IoT) and increased digital fragmentation). Instead, the Internet was developed to enable high levels of anonymity, data sharing and redundancy—all of which require a foundation of trust. To secure the digital economy, executives will need to address the following issues:


Inherent flaws

The Internet wasn’t created with connectivity in mind. It was developed to enable anonymity, data sharing and redundancy, all of which require trust.

Identity and
data veracity

Identity and Data Veracity

There is a growing phenomenon of content over context. Internet users are less able to discover the origin and validity of material.

The IoT

The IoT Effect

While IoT equipment offers many opportunities, it also increases businesses’ vulnerabilities to hacks and data breaches.


Digital fragmentation

Increased fragmentation, fueled in part by security concerns, could by itself stunt future global economic growth.

Reshaping the model

Standards and best practices

Technology investments

Building trust from the top down

CEOs must demonstrate decisive and, at times, unconventional leadership if they’re going to restore security to the digital economy. For guidance, they should look to the oil and gas industry. In doing so, they might soon begin to see how reinventing the Internet for trust will require both above-ground and below-ground solutions.

Executives in the oil and gas industry often focus on figuring out how to best get production out of the ground—an issue that comes down to engineering below ground. However, they also have to keep an eye on issues that occur above ground, ranging from strategy to politics to macroeconomics. CEOs need to demonstrate the ability to handle the technical expertise of digging down to solve a problem while also addressing concerns around pricing, supply and demand and other factors that fall into the category of business and operating models. When it comes to securing the digital economy, the oil and gas industry acts as a powerful analogy for CEOs. Updating the Internet’s below-ground infrastructure to keep pace with today’s innovations is obviously important, but many of the issues and opportunities for CEOs are occurring above ground. Security-first solutions, execution of cybersecurity strategies, digitally fueled operating models—all of these are issues that corporate leaders can own.

Here are three clear steps CEOs should consider taking:


Joining forces with other companies and govern globally.


Take the lead on the issue of Internet governance and stewardship:

When leaders realize that prioritizing a trustworthy digital economy is a win-win situation, businesses, consumers and governments all benefit. Chief executives should band together to create a code of ethical conduct for each industry and principle-based standards for Internet security.


Connect and protect with a model run on digital trust.


Embed security into your
business architecture:

When security is a foundational requirement through the company’s value chain—from suppliers to customers—your business partner won’t become your greatest vulnerability. With this approach, security is not an “add-on” feature for products and services. That’s why CEOs should articulate a vision of “security-by-design” from the earliest stages of development.


Advance business and enhance safety.


Address the vulnerabilities of
Internet technology:

To some, the technical deficiencies of Internet infrastructure are the “elephant in the room.” But with the guidance that our research provides, business leaders can exert their influence to address these issues. Then the tech community can truly commit to strengthening not just security on devices, but also for networks and the Internet’s basic protocols.

Securing the foundations

The benefits of a secure, trustworthy Internet economy are clear.

CEOs have an opportunity to drive meaningful change today and develop a foundation of trust for tomorrow’s digital economy. Unfortunately, just one attack is all it takes to damage an organization.

The actions of CEOs—driving above ground and influencing below ground—matter. By joining forces with other CEOs, public sector leaders and regulators, they can develop much-needed guidelines and oversight mechanisms. By protecting their own organization and extending protection through its value chain, they will safeguard the business ecosystem. By embracing and developing technologies that can advance their businesses and enhance digital safety, CEO engagement can drive a trust turnaround for the Internet and secure the future of the digital economy.

About the research

Our research uncovers concrete actions for CEOs to build a safer, more trustworthy Internet, ensuring a more secure digital economy.


leading technologists interviewed, including business leaders, experts and practitioners.


C-level executives surveyed.


large organizations modelled globally.


unique transcripts from S&P global analyzed.

Get the essentials

Discover how leaders can take concrete actions collaboratively to build a secure Internet and ensure the future of our digital economy.

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About the authors

Omar Abbosh

Group Chief Executive,
Accenture Communications, Media & Technology

Omar is responsible for the company's $8 billion business serving the digital platforms, media, telecommunications, semiconductor and consumer electronics industries.

Before being appointed to his current position, Omar served as Accenture’s chief strategy officer where he orchestrated Accenture’s own digital transformation, pivoting the company’s core business to Digital, Cloud and Security services, which now account for 60% of revenues. He successfully launched and scaled new businesses such as Accenture Security, and built Accenture’s Innovation Architecture, including its flagship Innovation Hub in Dublin. His experience and deep connections in Silicon Valley allow him to stay ahead of key shifts across multiple technologies.

Omar is a member of Accenture’s Global Management Committee. Before being appointed to his current position in September 2018, he served as Accenture’s chief strategy officer for more than three years, with responsibility for overseeing all aspects of the company’s strategy, strategy implementation, innovation programs and investments. This included ventures and acquisitions, the Dock—Accenture’s flagship innovation facility, industry programs and Accenture’s security business.

Omar brings three decades of experience to his role. Previously, he held several management roles including senior managing director – Growth & Strategy for the Resources operating group. He has served as the global client lead for leading multinational companies where he advised client executives on major strategic issues for their businesses.

Omar holds a degree in electronic engineering from Cambridge University and a master’s degree in business administration from INSEAD.

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Kelly Bissell

Senior Managing Director,
Accenture Security

Kelly leads the company's $2 billion security business across all industries. In this role, he spearheads Accenture’s commitment to help clients build cyber resilience and grow with confidence in a landscape with an increasing range of threats.

Kelly has spent more than 30 years bringing innovative, strategic solutions to help global organizations address a range of complex security challenges. As a recognized cybersecurity expert, Kelly specializes in incident response, identity management, privacy and data protection, secure software development, and cyber risk management. With a commitment to help clients innovate—safely and securely—Kelly has a vision to help businesses embed security in everything they do.

Previously, Kelly held various leadership positions with Arthur Andersen, BellSouth (AT&T), Deloitte & Touche LLP, Medaphis, and McKesson. During his career, he has served in almost every IT capacity from developer, network engineer, data center director, CISO, CTO and CIO.

Kelly received a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems and earned a Master of Business Administration from Emory University.

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