Forum Institutional

There's an urgent need for strengthened cyber resilience in telecoms. Here's why

Woman holding mobile phone and using laptop: raising the bar for cyber resilience

As we move from cybersecurity to cyber resilience, operators should build resilience and capabilities to detect attacks and minimise impact. Image: Stockphoto

Sigve Brekke
Chief Executive Officer, Telenor Group
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This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

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  • With the growth in data and digital infrastructure’s role in society, a threat is rising in the background – cybercrime, cyberterrorism, cyberwar.
  • It’s imperative for telcos not only to advance their own systems and practices, but also the skillset of future generations.
  • As we move from cybersecurity to cyber resilience, operators should build resilience and capabilities to detect attacks and minimise impact.

Did you know that about 51 petabytes of data were created worldwide while you read this sentence?

That’s the equivalent of 51,000,000,000 megabytes – and we are supposedly creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. The numbers are hard to grasp, and it’s not getting easier. The total amount of data globally is expected to grow to more than 180 zettabytes by 2025 – or 180,000,000,000,000,000 megabytes.

Is your head spinning yet?

Don’t worry, the big positive with data – or digitalisation – is that it empowers societies, fuelling a better tomorrow.

Enabling people to connect to what matters most, accessibility to information, increasing productivity and efficiency, and boosting citizens' access to public services are just a few of the countless advantages of an increasingly digitised world.

Digitalisation also holds one of the keys to the green transition of our society. Digital operations and data-centric operating processes enable green innovations from improved industrial processes and carbon capture and storage to optimised energy usage and agriculture.

But with the big growth in data and digital infrastructure’s role for society as a whole, a growing threat is lurking in the background – or not so much lurking, really. Cybercrime is increasing day by day, and as the world is facing geopolitical instability, cyberterrorism and cyberwar suddenly feel more imminent.

Raising bar for cyber resilience

Not so many years ago, the information most of us had stored online was primarily personal or financial. Today, however, almost the entire society runs online, and the unavailability of information has gone from being a nuisance to a matter of life and death. Medical journals, navigation systems, traffic control systems, and crisis management plans are all online and connected, and we operate on the assumption they are always ready, available, and easy to access when we need them.

The exponential increase in digitalisation has therefore shifted the focus of cybersecurity from confidentiality to availability, and the need to safeguard people's and industries' data and information held in cloud-based services is rapidly growing.

With one of Norway's biggest IT security operations, several of Telenor’s business customers have requested the company’s support in securing their own operational technologies. That's why, in 2022, Telenor, together with industrial investment company Aker and industrial software company Cognite, established the software security company Omny. Omny will develop software that helps secure industrial operations and critical infrastructure, such as oil and gas producers, energy suppliers, public sector actors, and hospitals.

Davos 2023 ; cyber resilience
There is a need to strengthen cyber resilience across the mobile industry to ensure business continuity and economic growth. Image: Telenor Group

And It’s not only business customers that need our support. Consumers are facing rising security issues like cyber-attacks, phishing, ID theft, investment fraud and, not least, fraudulent calls. In 2022, Telenor blocked more than 200 million fraudulent calls. However, despite our best efforts, according to a recent Nordic survey, the issue is still substantial. Over 60% of Danes, 58% of Norwegians, 56% of Finns and 53% of Swedes have experienced fraudulent calls. Thus, only through sufficient safeguarding of data can societies utilise the full potential that digitalisation holds for a greener and more sustainable future. That’s why Telenor constantly raises the bar for the safety, security and privacy of our customers and partners through our products and services.

Have you read?

Banking on power of partnerships

Yet alone, we will not succeed, as the nature of cyber risks is in perpetual change. It isn't digitalisation that's making us more vulnerable to cyber-attacks, rather it’s the interconnection between everything and everyone across borders. As a provider of connectivity and operator of the core networks where this interconnection is taking place, telecommunication operators can today be seen as society's gatekeepers of security. And, in these uncertain times, the customers' need for security solutions is significantly increasing.

It’s therefore imperative for companies like Telenor not only to advance their own systems and practices, but also the skill set of the future generations to ensure sustainable safeguarding practices, behaviours, and expertise.


How is the Forum tackling global cybersecurity challenges?

Here again, we bank on the power of partnerships and, together with Cisco, have engaged young minds in Thailand to understand, ideate and incubate solutions for cybersecurity and online safety challenges. In Bangladesh, we are equipping youth through certified courses in future skills, including cybersecurity. As our vision for digital inclusion unfolds, we will continue to embark on other such initiatives within our markets.

We firmly believe that there is a need to strengthen cyber resilience across the mobile industry to ensure business continuity and economic growth. So, as we move from cybersecurity to cyber resilience, all operators should build for resilience and have capabilities to detect attacks, minimise impact and quickly restore operations on top of their agenda in the years to come.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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