Averting a cyber pandemic: how businesses are building a global response to cybersecurity risks

28 Jan 2021

The impact.

The World Economic Forum’s Centre for Cybersecurity has created a community of security and technology leaders to identify future global risks from next-generation technology in order to avert a cyber pandemic.

What policies, practices and partnerships are needed to prevent such a cyber pandemic? This question was raised in sessions on Thursday 28 and Friday 29 January at the Davos Agenda 2021, featuring commentary from Check Point Software Technologies, Cloudflare, Fortinet, INTERPOL, Cyber Security Agency of Singapore and AustCyber.

The Forum has created Future Series: Cybercrime 2025, a joint program of work with the University of Oxford - Oxford Martin School, enabling organizations to share and develop research, insights and responses to future risks as a community.

The initiative convenes over 150 global experts from the world’s leading companies, research institutions and public-policy departments. Major collaborators include Palo Alto Networks, Mastercard and KPMG, and support from such institutions as Europol, ENISA and NIST.

The first findings and recommendations of the community’s work were recently published in the Cybersecurity emerging technology and systemic risk report.

"There must now be a different approach to cybersecurity. Our current approach is unsustainable."

Ken Xie, Founder, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer, Fortinet

What's the challenge?

The critical technology transformations on which future prosperity relies – ubiquitous connectivity, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and next-generation approaches to identity and access management – will not just be incremental challenges for the security community.

Unless action is taken now, by 2025 next-generation technology, on which the world will increasingly rely, has the potential to overwhelm the defences of the global security community.

Next-generation technologies have the potential to generate new risks for the world, and at this stage, their full impact is not well understood. There is an urgent need for collective action, policy intervention and improved accountability for government and business.

Without these interventions, it will be difficult to maintain integrity and trust in the emerging technology on which future global growth depends.

What would be the global impact of a digital virus compared to a biological one?

Our approach.

The Future Series: Cybercrime 2025 initiative was launched by the World Economic Forum to identify what approaches are required to manage cyber risks in the face of the major technology trends taking place in the near future:

Skills gap.
There is already a global capacity shortage in cybersecurity (specialists and throughout the wider workforce) and as new technologies emerge, the skills gap in delivering cybersecurity will widen.

Fragmented approaches.
Emerging technologies are driving an increasing interdependence and entanglement between policy and technology at a time when the global governance of cyberspace is weak.

New approaches.
Existing operational-security capabilities and technologies will not be fit for purpose, so mitigating threats and responding to incidents individually and collaboratively will require new approaches.

Security is not being considered as an integral component of technology innovations and as such, proper investment is not being made into support (knowledge, guidance, research investment) and incentives (market forces, regulation) for developing emerging technologies securely.

Ambiguous accountability.
Shared dependence widens the pool of actors affected by the resilience of a part of the ecosystem, built can also create ambiguity in the accountability for ensuring this resilience.

The World Economic Forum’s Centre for Cybersecurity is calling on the global community to implement the recommendations made in its Future Series report.

“Security must be more proactive and future-proof if we are to out-innovate the attackers.”

Nikesh Arora, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, Palo Alto Networks, USA

How can you get involved?

A new approach to cybersecurity is needed. The security and technology community, industry and government leadership and the international community must intervene to ensure that security issues are addressed in such a way that the benefits of emerging technology are inclusive.

Companies can join the Forum's efforts to tackle the range of complex industry-wide challenges. Find out more via the links below.

Learn more about the Centre and our initiatives

Access our webpage

Get insights on the future of cybersecurity

Read our reports

Become a Partner

Contact us