Cyber-attacks one of the biggest threats to the world in 2018 says WEF

News by Grace Johansson

Cyber-crime joins environmental disasters, large-scale involuntary migration and illicit trade as one of the most notable risks in the world this year, according to the latest Global Risks Report just brought out by WEF.

Cyber-crime joins environmental disasters, large-scale involuntary migration and illicit trade as one of the most notable risks in the world this year, according to the latest Global Risks Report just brought out by WEF.

The main issue globally, as with previous years, still remains as weapons of mass destruction, according to CNBC, which reported on the WEF Global Risks Report, however, now the next three most notable risks are environmental concerns because of how much damage they cause to land and property. To gather the top most notable risks for 2018 almost 1,000 global experts were surveyed on their views on what are the biggest risks to the world at the minute. The risks ranged in categories of technological, economical, societal, environmental and geopolitical.

The top five most likely events to happen this year globally, from most to least likely are: extreme weather events, natural disasters, cyber-attacks, data fraud or theft and failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation. This definitely means that companies should pay attention and secure their systems so that they do not fall victim to attacks this year as cyber-attacks are considered so likely.

The top five most likely list however is slightly different to the list of the five events most likely to have the biggest global impact, they are: weapons of mass destruction, extreme weather events, natural disasters, failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation and water crises.

Of the 1,000 global experts surveyed, 59 percent believed there would be intensified global risks in 2018, yet seven percent believed there would be a decline in the amount of risks globally. Since 2008 there has never been that much concern expressed about the imminent threat of cyber-attacks, but that has changed,  probably due to how much technology has developed and grown, as well as the fact it has become so much more accessible to so many more people in different ways.

Rob Wilkinson, corporate security specialist at security company Smoothwall commented to SC Media UK on the cost of a global cyber-attack what everyone can do to combat risks: “The new Global Risks Report from the WEF highlights the worst kept secret in the industry: cyber-attacks pose one of the biggest threats to the world as we know it. From governmental systems, through to hospitals and even military institutions (the very fabric of which keeps a society stable, protected and functioning), these could all be targeted by a wave hackers intent on causing havoc and chaos – often for no monetary reward. The cost of a global cyber-hack is thought to be £92 billion, but what would happen in a worldwide super attack whereby the majority of the world's fundamental defence, healthcare and other systems were so badly affected as to be unusable and obsolete?

“Cloud hacks and software infiltration are seen to be the most likely cause of cyber-attacks. Although cloud has generally been secure of late, cyber-criminals have more pawns to target as an increasing number of companies and services use cloud-based systems. No matter the industry, each organisation or body needs to review its internal security systems promptly to ensure they have a layered security defence spanning encryption, firewalls, web filtering and ongoing threat monitoring as well as a proactive stance against threat actors. Where a cyber-attack could cost as much or more than a natural disaster to fix, protecting the country's basic infrastructure in the face of cyber-criminals is surely a priority. We can ill afford an even bigger WannaCry and Petya.”

Joseph Carson, chief security scientist at Thycotic concurs, telling SC: “Many industries are going through what is deemed as the fourth industrial revolution. With the maritime industry shifting to advanced technologies to help drive smart and intelligent shipping, these provide very exciting and innovative opportunities and are the biggest advance in maritime operations since the advent of the steam engine. Yet these technology advancements do bring major concerns in terms of cyber-dependency and the major concern of cyber-risks and threats.

“Cyber-attacks are increasing and have become a global concern as many systems and devices that run critical infrastructure and decision making are now connected through the worldwide web commonly known as IoT.  This means that devices like web cameras and critical systems such as power stations are all connected.

“Public and private companies have become more vulnerable to cyber-attacks as established IT security controls are now failing to protect the current systems. Many companies are not moving quickly enough to new technologies, often because of cost and time constraints. As a result, cyber-attacks have been deemed one of the greatest threat and concern to eight global economies – the USA, Germany, Estonia, Japan, Holland, Switzerland, Singapore and Malaysia.

“This means that it is highly important that cyber-attacks become an urgent boardroom debate; they are no longer an IT problem, but a whole company problem and everyone is now responsible for cyber-security. Cyber-risks put the regulatory frameworks under pressure as they to adapt to these new high frequency and high risk economic threats.”

James Longworth, head of solution architecture at Insight UK, has responded to the report saying: “The new WEF's Global Risks Report 2018 confirmed once again that the threat of cyber-attacks is the modern times' sword of Damocles – always on the back of everyone's minds. The numerous attacks from last year proved that the nature of cyber-threats is constantly evolving and no organisation, be it big or small, can afford to be complacent.

“With the added context of the cost of suffering cyber-attacks set to rise, it was surprising to see in our recent survey of UK business leaders that only 38 percent said improving cyber-security is a priority for their IT investment.

“Ultimately, we are rapidly moving towards an age dominated by connectivity and smart devices – with the Internet of Things swiftly becoming as widespread as radio or TV – giving cyber criminals an exponentially increasing amount of devices to target. This is the time businesses stop hiding behind optimism bias, and instead start improving their cyber-risk management and invest in resilience efforts.”

Khaled Fattal, MLi Group chairman, commented to SC Media UK: "The WEF Global risks report is timely but is it enough to shock chairmen, CEOs and boards of the new reality that everything has changed? Or that many of the strategies they continue to rely on will fail them like they failed many since 2015? Doubt it. Today, the survivability of organisations is under unprecedented threat. This is very real. And the answer is not the resiliency, continuity and cyber-security strategies that continue to fail to defend organisations and governments too routinely. Far from it. These failing strategies are ill equipped to mitigate the destruction motivated new breed of cyber-terrorists, the politically motivated hackers whose aim is to change the political and economic direction of nations, the growing sophistication of the cyber-criminals, and to keep up with the breakneck speed at which technology is evolving and empowering these bad actors.

“Top decision-makers need to start asking what are they missing to survive the seismic shift in the global cyber and non-cyber threat landscape and what new solutions they need to implement. These threats will not go away if decision-makers choose to close their eyes. In fact they are increasing and so is the risk. Unless they come to terms with this new reality and make securing survivability their new ethos and top priority, and adopt multi-faceted strategies that incorporate new solutions, processes and protocols, many who will be breached in 2018 with devastating consequences will not survive. A new mindset and humble pie in seeking answers would be a good start.”

Crime & Threats

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