The connected world: the black swan of the global economy

This year’s Global Risks report, released at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, predicted that the key ‘black swan’ risks – those that are most difficult to predict – will be driven by technology. Cyber attacks in particular were predicted to rise in frequency and impact this year.

That’s hardly surprising when they are already so numerous. In the UK, 2.5 million computer-related criminal offences were reported in the 12 months leading up to June 2015. 

While technological crises have yet to significantly impact economies in a systemic way, the risk is still growing. According to the Global Risk Report, business leaders identified cyber attack as the top business risk in no fewer than eight countries, including the US, Japan, Germany, Switzerland and Singapore.

>See also: Internet of Threats: the risks in the pursuit of the connected home

Key motivators behind these attacks include financial gain, espionage and political propaganda. In addition to the potential damage to brand integrity from loss of data or blackmail, the range and sophistication of attacks has placed cyber security high on the agenda for businesses and government.

With little global governance and patchy collaboration between countries, criminal entities have enthusiastically exploited technology. Knowing that penalties can be low and evading capture relatively easy, criminals are targeting tech for personal and financial gain.

ISIL is a key example of this new age threat, where technology is used for communication through secure bespoke networks, and as a weapon – for example the hack on Tsinghua University in China.

The World Economic Forum suggests we stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally change the way we live, work and interact with one another.

This ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ is characterised by a fusion of technologies that are blurring the line between physical, digital and biological spheres.

In this context, humanity and technology will be increasingly intertwined – understanding how to protect ourselves from cybercrime and cyber attacks as individual countries, or indeed as individual companies, will no longer be enough.

A more holistic approach to cyber security will be needed to protect and make the most of our widely connected world.

>See also: The Security of Things: IoT and cybercrime

For example, with an increasingly mobile and connected workforce, keeping data secure becomes increasingly difficult. In the future, we could see sophisticated attacks that focus on a connected home appliance, but are designed to access the mobile device linked to it, leading to attacks on the corporate network of the device owner.

Our collective response will require more resources and the ‘People Factor’ should not be underestimated – sufficiently skilled security staff will be vital.

GCHQ has recognised this fact with the announcement of its Cyber Summer Schools scheme to train the next generation of security experts. In our increasingly connected world, security skills will be in high demand.


Sourced from Steve Bianciardi and Kevin Linsell, Adapt

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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