Cyber attacks, infrastructure disruptions and data loss: Potential global risks?

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According to the World Economic Forum YES. The forum’s Global Risks 2014 report identifies cyber attacks, infrastructure disruptions and data loss as some of the most likely global risks in the coming future. The report considers a core set of 31 global risks that have the potential to cause significant negative impact across entire countries and industries if they take place. The risks are grouped in five categories – Technological being one of them- and are measured in terms of their likelihood and potential impact.

The technological category covers major risks related to the role information and communication technologies play to individuals, businesses and governments. Major risks include cyber attacks, infrastructure disruptions and data loss,data fraud and theft. Other technological risks concerns include data mismanagement, loss of privacy, increase in surveillance, and possible abuse of new and more complex information technology. The risks are becoming more impactful with the growth of the “Internet of Things” and as social media changing from an entirely social pastime into the corporate world.  A threat to the Internet means now a threat to everything. Every part of the world’s societies and economies uses the same infrastructure, the same hardware and software with billions of devices connected to the Internet, from simple e-book readers to electrical distribution networks.

As stated in the report, “accelerating change in the 21st century has bound countries, economies and businesses tightly together through better infrastructure and faster and more efficient communication systems. Innovations such as the Internet and mobile phone have boosted productivity, created new business opportunities and enhanced access to information. Yet the same dynamic that lies behind these gains – everything being more connected and interdependent – also threatens to undermine them.”

The report points out that the risks to the Internet continue to grow more serious for one basic reason: cyberspace attack (breaking into or disrupting their system) has always been easier than defending them. The attacker has had the advantage over the defense. An attacker needs only to find a single way through defenses at a single point in time, while the defender must defend all vulnerable points forever.

Attackers (whether hackers or organized-crime groups) could attain a wide range of negative effects with little input, making large-scale, Internet-wide interruption. The Internet would stop being a trusted way of communication or business and would be increasingly abandoned by the public and organizations. At the end, it might not be easy to secure, manage or share information.

Environmental triggers could also play a role affecting the physical infrastructure.Earthquakes or storms could cause substantial outages of national grids, satellites, avionics or signals from global navigation satellite systems (GNSS). Today, a surprising number of critical systems rely on GNSS, including emergency 911 calls, ATMs and other financial infrastructure, and both wired and wireless communications networks.

The report stresses at the end of this section that to undertake the risks arising from hyper-connectivity, stakeholders’ collaboration, dialogue, and new thinking at all levels on how to preserve, protect and govern the common good of a trusted cyberspace will be required.

Read the Global Risks 2014 report in full, it will open your mind.

Source: World Economic Forum, Global Risks 2014 report

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