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Experts at Davos 2023 call for a global response to the gathering 'cyber storm' 

Rise in cybersecurity concerns: In a Forum survey, 91% of respondents said they believe a catastrophic cyber event is at least somewhat likely in the next two years.

Rise in cybersecurity concerns: In a Forum survey, 91% of respondents said they believe a catastrophic cyber event is at least somewhat likely in the next two years. Image: Pexel/Tima Miroshnichenko

Spencer Feingold
Digital Editor, Public Engagement, World Economic Forum
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • Cybersecurity was a major topic of discussion at the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos, Switzerland.
  • Experts warned that cyberattacks are increasing in sophistication and frequency.
  • “This is a global threat, and it calls for a global response,” said Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary-General.

As economic and geopolitical instability spills into the new year, experts predict that 2023 will be a consequential year for cybersecurity. The developments, they say, will include an expanded threat landscape and increasingly sophisticated cyberattacks.

"There's a gathering cyber storm," Sadie Creese, a Professor of Cyber Security at the University of Oxford, said during an interview at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos, Switzerland. "This storm is brewing, and it's really hard to anticipate just how bad that will be."

Already, cyberattacks such as phishing, ransomware and distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are on the rise. Cloudflare, a major US cybersecurity firm that provides protection services for over 30% of Fortune 500 companies, found that DDoS attacks—which entail overwhelming a server with a flood of traffic to disrupt a network or webpage—increased last year by 79% year-over-year.

"There's been an enormous amount of insecurity around the world," Matthew Prince, the CEO of Cloudflare, stated during the Annual Meeting. "I think 2023 is gonna be a busy year in terms of cyber attacks."

Cybersecurity: a global threat that calls for a global response

There is also widespread concern that governments will boost their support to or direct involvement in disruptive cyber operations. This includes, notably, nefarious cyber activities carried out by countries like Russia and North Korea.

“This is a global threat, and it calls for a global response and enhanced and coordinated action,” Jürgen Stock, the Secretary-General of the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), said in Davos. “The key to winning the battle against cybercrime is, of course, to work together to make it a priority across the geopolitical fault lines.”

Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary-General, calls for a global response to address cybersecurity, at Davos 2023.
Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary-General, calls for a global response to address cybersecurity, at Davos 2023. Image: World Economic Forum

The Annual Meeting 2023 coincided with the release of the Forum’s 2023 Global Cybersecurity Outlook.

The report found that business leaders are far more aware of the cyber threat than the year prior. In fact, 91% of respondents said they believe a far-reaching and catastrophic cyber event is at least somewhat likely in the next two years. However, the report concludes that organizations continue to face significant challenges when it comes to effectively addressing cyber concerns.

This concern has been raised particularly around critical infrastructure sectors like energy, public transportation and manufacturing. SecurityScorecard, a US cybersecurity rating and analysis firm, reported recently that 48% of critical manufacturing companies surveyed were at significant risk of a cyber breach.

“Vulnerabilities within the critical manufacturing sector haven’t gone unnoticed by cybercriminals either,” said Aleksandr Yampolskiy, SecurityScorecard's CEO.

The Forum's report also notes that the potential targets for cyberattacks are increasing. Today, targets include not only government agencies or major corporations, but largely any organization that handles consumer data—no matter how small.

“We need to accept that this is really about cyber resilience,” Creese stated. “There is no such thing as a hundred percent security. It's about resilience in the face of insecurity.”

Consumers, too, need to increase their cybersecurity awareness in 2023, experts say. The need is especially crucial given that more and more everyday products—ranging from a car to a coffee maker—are connected to the internet.

As more things get connected to the internet there's just more risk.

Matthew Prince, Cloudflare CEO

Yet alongside the expanding threat landscape, cybersecurity defenses are also increasing in scope and sophistication. This includes the so-called Zero Trust approach to cybersecurity, which creates a framework that eliminates implicit trust and ensures that any user—even those who are supposed to be inside an organization's network—is authenticated and validated at every turn.

“It's really important for us to actually build cybersecurity into the network itself,” Prince said. “If we can make it so that instead of your coffee maker having to be secure, you can simply say that the network which is connecting into your house is secure from the beginning.”

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