|IoT will amplify the cyberattack surface./ Photo Credit: Sergey Nivens (via Shutterstock)|
Emerging technologies such as IoT, AI, and quantum computing have the potential to alter human lives, though it brings unintended consequences in the form of cyberattacks, warned non-profit organization World Economic Forum (WEF), as cited by Danny Palmer of ZD Net, a business technology news website. Now in its 15th year, the WEF Global Risks Report 2020—created in partnership with insurance broking and risk management firm Marsh—outlined the biggest threats facing the globe over the following year and beyond. Data breaches and cyberattacks were featured in the top five most likely global risks in 2018 and 2019. While both pose significant risks, data breaches and cyberattacks are ranked at sixth and seventh, respectively.
John Drzik, chairman of Marsh & McLennan Insights, said, "I wouldn't underestimate the importance of technology risk, even though this year's report has a centre piece on climate." The report placed the technological risks behind five environmental challenges, namely extreme weather, climate change action failure, natural disasters, biodiversity loss, and human-made environmental disasters. It doesn’t mean cybersecurity threats do not pose any risks. In fact, cyberattacks and data breaches can be in the form of data theft and ransomware. Hackers can also compromise industrial and cyber-physical systems.
The report warned, “The digital nature of 4IR [fourth industrial revolution] technologies makes them intrinsically vulnerable to cyberattacks that can take a multitude of forms—from data theft and ransomware to the overtaking of systems with potentially large-scale harmful consequences.” The WEF said IoT is “amplifying the potential cyberattack surface” due to the rise of IoT-based attacks. IoT devices collect and share highly sensitive data such as medical reports and the like, which could be dangerous if cybercriminals access them if they are not stored and collected properly.
Meanwhile, AI can be abused to spread misinformation and generate deepfakes. As for quantum computing, it poses problems to encryption by drastically reducing the time required to solve the mathematical problems that encryption relies on to mere seconds. Hackers and cybercriminals can exploit quantum technology to commit attacks on power grids, personal data, and critical infrastructure. But it’s not gloom and doom. The report added, “Numerous initiatives bring together businesses and governments to build trust, promote security in cyberspace, assess the impact of cyberattacks and assist victims.”