The World Economic Forum has ranked cyber crime as among the top three risks the world will face this year in terms of likelihood, thereby signifying how risks associated with technological advancement have skyrocketed over the years.

In its Global Risks Report for 2018, the World Economic Forum cautioned people and businesses against complacency and urged them to prepare for sudden and dramatic disruptions caused by cyber crime.

The report also included findings of the Global Risks Perception Survey which featured responses from people about what they considered would be the major risks the world would face this year. The survey revealed that rising cyber dependency of people across the world has exposed them to adverse consequences of technological advances, and cyber crime like data theft and cyber-attacks.

Such exposure has been fuelled mainly by the failure of critical infrastructure and failure of organisations in protecting sensitive data.

‘Attacks against businesses have almost doubled in five years, and incidents that would once have been considered extraordinary are becoming more and more commonplace. The financial impact of cybersecurity breaches is rising, and some of the largest costs in 2017 related to ransomware attacks, which accounted for 64% of all malicious emails,’ the World Economic Forum noted.

‘Another growing trend is the use of cyberattacks to target critical infrastructure and strategic industrial sectors, raising fears that, in a worst-case scenario, attackers could trigger a breakdown in the systems that keep societies functioning,’ it added.

According to statistics presented by WEF, 357 million malware variants were released in 2016 alone and banking trojans designed to steal account login details can be purchased for just $500. At the same time, the huge rise in usage of cloud services across the world has also led to a major rise in attacks on IoT devices, of which 8.4 billion are in use today.

Aside from suffering disruptions, organisations have also suffered huge losses as a result of persistent cyber attacks. At present, the annual cost of responding to cyberattacks is £11.7 million per company and is expected to rise to US$8 trillion in the next five years.

‘Beyond its financial cost, the WannaCry attack disrupted critical and strategic infrastructure across the world, including government ministries, railways, banks, telecommunications providers, energy companies, car manufacturers and hospitals. It illustrated a growing trend of using cyberattacks to target critical infrastructure and strategic industrial sectors, raising fears that, in a worst-case scenario, attackers could trigger a breakdown in the systems that keep societies functioning.

‘Most attacks on critical and strategic systems have not succeeded – but the combination of isolated successes with a growing list of attempted attacks suggests that risks are increasing. And the world’s increasing interconnectedness and pace heightens our vulnerability to attacks that cause not only isolated and temporary disruptions, but radical and irreversible systemic shocks,’ it added.

Commenting on the World Economic Forum’s outlook on the dangers posed by cyber criminals across the world, Kirill Kasavchenko, Principal Security Technologist for EMEA at NetScout Arbor, says that the report should come as a warning to businesses and governments about risks associated with technological advancement.

‘Cybercrime can be a lucrative source of income so, until cyber threats are contained on a global level, hackers will continue to hold organisations to ransom and disrupt critical industries. This is why collaboration and intelligence sharing should be at the core of the global response to reducing the risk of cyberattacks. Intelligence sharing can help organisations improve their detection and containment capabilities, so they can better prepare for an attack on their systems. To achieve maximum impact, it is critical that this involves intelligence agencies, cyber researchers and businesses,’ he adds.

Joseph Carson, Chief Security Scientist at Thycotic, agrees. According to him, 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 cybersecurity. Cyber risks put the regulatory frameworks under pressure as they to adapt to these new high frequency and high risk economic threats,’ he adds.

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