The recent Global Risks Report by the World Economic Forum offers the latest evidence that cybersecurity is rising among the top global risks. Cyberattacks are now the global risk of highest concern to business leaders in advanced economies. This reflects the inability of enterprises to keep pace with today’s challenging threat landscape, and points to an urgent need for increased prioritization of and investment in cybersecurity by executive leadership.
While a cyberattack does not qualify as a natural disaster – one of the other top risks identified in the Global Risks Report – large-scale cyberattacks are capable of devastating critical infrastructure in similar fashion. A cyberattack has the potential to disrupt many of the most essential aspects of our lives, from electric, gas and water utilities to banking and cellphone coverage.
It is evident that the status quo will not be sufficient if we are to expect a reasonable level of security in both our personal and professional lives. Society and enterprises will need to focus on resilience, both technological and human. While contending with threats may be inevitable, our ability to recover cannot be undermined. We will need to build real and virtual firebreaks to ensure critical infrastructure elements do not fall due to the domino effect of a potential collapse.
Systemic challenges and threats require systemic solutions. Enterprises must focus not just on providing the next big app or solution to customers, but also on educating customers about potential threats and actions that can be taken to prevent or address them. In this context, it was encouraging to see the World Economic Forum announce plans for a new Global Centre for Cybersecurity. Deeper collaboration between the public and private sectors – while also tapping into the knowledge base of global industry associations such as ISACA – must be part of any substantive solutions going forward.
The increasing cybersecurity challenges that accompany the expanding threat landscape also call for the constant skilling and re-skilling of the technology workforce. Enterprises must be more committed to investing in real-world training for their security teams that takes into account the most up-to-date threats and vulnerabilities. Why is it so necessary to develop a more robust, highly skilled cybersecurity and tech governance workforce? Consider several realistic possibilities that I suspect we could encounter as 2018 progresses:
- At least half the global population could become victims of privacy breaches;
- The Internet of Things will become the Internet of Threats. Smart appliances will be used to take privacy attacks to the next level. Your television, your refrigerator and your connected toothbrush will know more about you than any other human can;
- The rise of superintelligent threats, driven by AI and machine learning;
- The potential for swarm attacks by drones;
- The first bioengineered hack of the human body.
These, and other technology-driven stress points, are unprecedented challenges that demand proactive defense strategies. Disruptive technologies have the potential to power our global economy in many promising and innovative ways, but we must nurture new and more collaborative solutions to ensure these technologies are implemented effectively and securely.
While cybersecurity rising on the list of top global threats can not be construed as good news, at least the global community has begun to recognize the scope of the challenge. Now, it is time to pull together as a global community and meet this challenge together.
R.V. Raghu, CISA, CRISC, ISACA board director and director of Versatilist Consulting India Pvt. Ltd.
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