Acts of cyber aggression on governments and businesses are now considered a top risk globally. Earlier this year the World Economic Forum (WEF) released their 2012 report on Global Risks. That report looked at fifty areas of risk across specific domains such as the economy, the environment, geopolitics, society and technology.
Five of the top ten risks, however, were closely if not directly related to the cyber domain and cybersecurity concerns. Among them:
• Critical systems failure: single-point system vulnerabilities trigger cascading failure of critical information infrastructure and networks.
• Cyber-attacks: state-sponsored, state-affiliated, criminal or terrorist
• Failure of intellectual property regime: ineffective intellectual property protections undermine research and development, innovation and investment.
• Massive digital misinformation: deliberately provocative, misleading or incomplete information disseminates rapidly and extensively with dangerous consequences.
• Massive incident of data fraud/ theft: criminal or wrongful exploitation of private data on an unprecedented scale.
The report specifically called out cyber sabotage, cyber espionage and acts of cyber subversion as concerns given that the world has become, and is increasingly, dependent on the Internet and online systems.
(The five technology risks not cyber related, but featured in the chart above as being of significant concern include: 1) massive digital misinformation; 2) unintended consequences of new life science technologies; 3) unintended consequences of climate change mitigation; 4) unintended consequences of nanotechnology; and 5) failure of intellectual property value.)
Taken more largely, though, one WEF document went as far as to point out that a healthy digital space is needed to ensure stability in the world economy and balance of power and went on to call for investment into the exploration of digital vulnerabilities.
How many warnings must be issued before we take the steps necessary to mitigate this threat? The clock is ticking. Is there enough time left?
One thing is certain, the longer we wait the less time we have.
Kevin G. Coleman is a long-time security technology executive and former Chief Strategist at Netscape. He is Senior Fellow with the Technolytics Institute, where he provides consulting services on strategic technology and security issues. He writes weekly for Breaking Gov on the topic of cyber intelligence