The 15th edition of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report is out. Alongside recognizing the economic, environmental, geopolitical, and societal risks, the report also emphasizes on technological risks in the form of cyberattacks that face us in 2020, more intense and complicated than ever before.
The Global Risk Report 2020 talks about the “Wild Wide Web” and its associated risks. There is a lack of global technology governance systems and frameworks. In that way, the global cyberspace is fragmented with cybersecurity blind spots.
Let’s consider how differing technological standards hinder economic growth and further divide societies.
Here are the four key technologies as part of the fourth industrial revolution and their projected growth through 2025.
The next wave of 4IR technologies are about to dramatically change societies and economies. These smart technologies have a huge potential in improving human health and life on this planet.
However, cybersecurity is one of the many unintended consequences these advancements bring along. WEF terms cybersecurity the second most concerning risk for doing a global business over the next decade.
5G networks, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing have created their own threats that will emerge in the times to come.
The digital nature of up and coming technologies makes them vulnerable to cyberattacks in a variety of forms. Right from ransomware attacks to data theft to overtaking of systems with large-scale fatal effects.
Operational technologies pose a significant risk because cyberattacks could cause traditional impacts when technology is extended into the real world. It’s worrying that security-by-design principles that integrate security into the core of a software piece are still secondary to getting a product to the market sooner rather than later.
Cyberattacks on critical infrastructure such as energy, healthcare, and transportation are increasing and are rated a top risk. Organized cybercrime is also proliferating and their detection and prosecution rate is as low as 0.05 percent in the US.
If anything, technologies such as the Internet of Things are only increasing the surface area for attackers to leverage. Already, 21 billion IoT devices exist worldwide and will double by 2025. IoT attacks increased by over 300 percent in the first half of 2019, while the same year in September, IoTs were used to bring down Wikipedia through a classic DDoS attack.
Cybercrime as a service is also an expanding avenue for attackers with tools on the Darknet becoming more accessible and affordable.
All of these add to suggest that businesses need a more comprehensive plan to take care of their digital assets this year and forward.
All 4IR technologies work on data. This makes data privacy a gigantic challenge. IT devices also collect sensitive and personal information from individuals, companies, states, right from personal medical records to information critical in terms of national security.
The data brokering market is worth USD 200 billion a year comprising of aggregating, selling, copying, and searching data for commercial uses. Data theft on a large scale could lead to massive manipulation of collective human behavior, leading to psychological and physical harm.
Cloud computing promises a lot of benefits in terms of round-the-clock availability, reliability, and more. But with increasingly more data hosted on the cloud comes the challenge to secure personal information from the gazillion potential security risks.
We have not yet known the fullest potential of Artificial Intelligence. But, we also have not yet know the full risks associated with the technology. We know a few- such as manipulating results and sentiment through fake news and “deep fakes”.
Other, more massive risks are yet to be unearthed in areas, say brain-computer interfaces and hyper-automation with robotics and AI.
All 4IR technologies rely on high-speed and high-performance digital infrastructure, which 5G promises. While 5G infrastructure can be built reusing some part of 4G, significant shortfalls in capacity are expected in 2020 and later in some countries.
In more developed countries, the challenge is not only to build a modernized infrastructure to support 5G but to also overcome dependence on legacy systems. Introducing safe, reliable, and improved systems into the current capabilities is a key factor that will determine how soon we can begin to leverage 5G.
The effect of changes and shifts in the cyberspace can be felt as tremors across the board.
Global leaders, instead of IT departments, need to take charge of cybersecurity given the increasing complexity and sophistication of cyberattacks.
Here are a few first steps:
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