Digital fragmentation and cyber-threats are among the top 10 biggest risks facing global businesses over the coming decade, according to the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) report.
The annual Global Risks Report is compiled from interviews with business leaders, academics and others from around the world.
This year there was a heavy focus on environmental concerns, but cyber-related risks also featured strongly, as they have done for years.
In total, 76% of respondents claimed that cyber-attacks disrupting operations and infrastructure would increase in 2020, while a similar number (75%) said the same about online data and financial theft.
Cyber-attacks were also placed in the top 10 risks table in terms of likelihood and impact over the coming decade, while data theft/fraud made it into just the former category.
Information infrastructure breakdown also made it into the top 10 most impactful risks for the coming decade, reflecting respondents’ concerns around the increasingly fragmented online world brought about by geopolitical rivalries and competing standards.
The WEF report pointed to fourth industrial revolution (4IR) technologies as bringing tremendous gains to society and the global economy, but also unintended cyber-risk, as the attack surface grows exponentially.
Quantum computing, 5G, cloud computing, AI and IoT were all highlighted as areas of concern, as was the lack of an effective and unified global cyber-governance framework.
Fragmentation of the digital world threatens to stifle the development of 4IR technologies and will add extra cost for businesses, it warned.
“Businesses are facing the challenge of implementing existing cybersecurity and 4IR standards (where they exist), while ensuring compliance with fragmented regulations on accountability, transparency, bias and privacy for developing — or simply applying — 4IR technologies,” the report continued.
“Because government and corporate leaders equally share the responsibility for promoting global cybersecurity and digital trust, cooperation between the public and private sectors is more vital than ever in areas such as information-sharing, collaboration with law enforcement agencies, and skill and capacity development.”
Renaud Deraison, CTO at Tenable, said the report’s findings made sense.
“As the world seeks continued growth and competitiveness in the global economy, we’re seeing many new projects take off, including building modern factories that are highly automated. This innovation can’t happen without a good grasp of the security and integrity of the digital components those factories rely on,” he argued.
“It’s not just about stopping bad actors from damaging these mission-critical services, as experienced in cities across the world, it’s also about preventing them from getting a foothold in our environments to cause harm, be it physical, data theft or financial gain.”