Cybersecurity rises to third largest threat to global stability

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The annual Global Risks Report issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF) issued this week ranks cybersecurity attacks as the third largest threat to global stability after natural disasters and extreme weather conditions over the next five years.

As a non-profit foundation WEF has been racking threats to stability for the past 40 years. This year’s report addresses risks stemming from everything from climate change to geopolitical power struggles. Cybersecurity has been steadily rising as a risk factor for several years now. But the WEF report this year notes that at a time when societies become more dependent on digital technologies to function, there has been a worrying escalation of cybersecurity attacks.

The WEF report notes cybersecurity breaches acknowledged by businesses have almost doubled in five years, from 68 per business in 2012 to 130 per business in 2017. In addition, the WEF report cites a separate 2017 study of 254 companies across seven countries that puts the annual cost of responding to cyberattacks at £11.7 million per company, an annual increase of 27 percent. Overall, the WEF report also cites forecasts that put the cost of cybercrime to businesses over the next five years at over $8 trillion.

Other worrying trends cited by WEF include the likelihood of cyberwarfare being engaged between nations, the fact that some countries may attempt to wall off portions of the Internet to protect themselves from perceived threats, and the possibility that algorithms left unmanaged might one day generate enough code on their own to have a significant impact on the performance of the Internet.

The annual Global Risks Report issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF) ranks cybersecurity attacks as the third largest threat to global stability in the next five years.Click To Tweet

WEF is urging organizations to fundamentally alter the way they assess risks in a world where technological advances along with other changes have multiplied the potential impact of any one event. For example, the WEF report notes it’s not too far-fetched to assume that usage of drones combined with artificial intelligence (AI) applications will lead to more efficient commercial fishing, which in turn could deplete fishing stocks to the point where they can’t recover.

For every technological advance there has always been an unexpected consequence. The WEF report isn’t suggesting that the time has come to put the technological genie back in the bottle. Rather, it urges organizations to weigh those risks in a way that either enables them to either protect their interests better, or exercise some influence to minimize them.

Of course, not one knows for sure what technological advances lie ahead. It may very well turn out that advances in cybersecurity technologies will greatly minimize cybersecurity risks. But in the absence of any evidence that might occur organizations might want to assume, if not prepare for, the worst.

Naturally, many cybersecurity professionals are tired of being the harbingers of doom and gloom inside their organizations. The WEF report at least provides some cold comfort in that it was prepared by a non-profit organization that doesn’t have a vested interest in cybersecurity. Regardless of what comes to pass, however, the one thing that is for certain is both awareness of and concerns about cybersecurity have never been greater.

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