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The dark side of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

A drone is used for filming as the Australian frigate HMAS Anzac arrives in Valletta's Grand Harbour, Malta, May 11, 2015.

A drone is used for filming as the Australian frigate HMAS Anzac arrives in Valletta's Grand Harbour Image: REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

André Kudelski
Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Kudelski Group
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The Digital Economy

Together with incredible opportunities come new risks, as the virtual and real world become one in the fourth industrial revolution.

The asymmetry of risks that we are starting to face reinforces the need for an integrated and holistic view of security issues, and a strong synchronization between business and political action.

The disappearance of frontiers between the virtual and real world brings new fragilities

The dream of the connected car could actually quite soon become a nightmare; we have recently had proof that any skilled engineer could take control remotely of any connected “thing”. This new reality changes the traditional rules of warfare, both for defense strategists and in business.

Society has not yet caught onto the incredible amount of scenarios that such innovations allow. In 1940, the French army was still arguing about whether or not to industrialize tank production, while the Germans already had V1 rockets in mind, and the Americans were conceiving the atomic bomb. We know the outcome of the Second World War.

Today, we are in the same position of underestimating the risks of a connected world, while unaware of the nature and diversity of threats.

Given the asymmetry of risks, we cannot afford to be security illiterate

To succeed in this digital revolution we need to learn to deal with asymmetric nature of conflict and business. There is a need broader security sensitivity, for sufficient skills to secure assets beforehand, and for capabilities to monitor, analyze and react to threats in real time.

We recently conducted a study which found that most companies’ digital infrastructures were already under attack by pirates. These advanced, persistent threats are silent and unnoticeable, but with potential to cause extreme damage in a split second. Preparing for this unprecedented situation requires mobilization of minds and resources, not only at a management or infrastructure level, but also at the level of every employee or citizen. A lost smartphone, a connected production line or a connected plane could all become powerful weapons.

Appropriate solutions will come from both political and business initiatives

Companies need to understand that on top of device and software-based security solutions, only a holistic approach that includes real-time intelligence will create an effective hedge. This type of response has a name: guerilla.

The media industry already understood this a few years ago. In order to protect their annual 200 billion revenue from content distribution, they realized they didn’t just need hardware and software protection to prevent real-time sharing of content for free on the Internet. They set up security labs to fight pirates continuously.

But, to be successful, collaboration between regulatory, political and business environments needs to strengthened. The defensive mindset evident in current responses such as closing economic borders and avoiding addressing pertinent economic issues will only lead talent being held back. Diversity, sense of purpose and respect for the roots of each nation along with a strong confidence in the future are the only ingredients that will spark a proper political response that will reduce volatility.

As technology becomes smarter and smarter, security becomes an open challenge - for us all.

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World Economic Forum

May 21, 2024

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