Quantum computing, AI, e-passports pose new cyber risks

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Quantum computing, artificial intelligence (AI), digital identity systems (such as e-passports) and the ubiquitous connectivity of devices and networks are transforming the foundations of cyber space and have brought the industry to a watershed moment.

This is according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), which notes COVID-19 has led to an acceleration of cyber attacks targeting those working from home, as well as hospital systems and financial institutions.

However, WEF says the next wave of cyber security risks will not be a continuation of these challenges, and incremental progress will not be enough to stop them.

WEF, in partnership with the University of Oxford, yesterday published the Future Series Report, which identifies 15 urgent, coordinated actions needed to avoid real threats to society.

The organisations note the 14-month study is the first to examine how shifts in technology will impact the cyber security industry.

It is based on the expertise of more than 100 leaders in the cyber security community, spanning businesses, governments, academia and civil society.

“The dynamics of cyber security are changing,” says Will Dixon, cyber security lead at WEF. “Broadly speaking, we have been doing cyber security the same way for the past 15 years and it’s not going to work anymore.

“What has changed is that now, the criminals of the future can easily exploit these emerging technologies and our growing interconnectivity at a scale not seen before. The good news is that there are ways to protect our personal data, mitigate the impact on global trade and security, and ensure our society isn’t hit with another shock,” Dixon says.

“The research points to the likelihood of systemic cyber risks, and a potential cyber resilience deficit if no action is taken,” says professor Sadie Creese from University of Oxford.

“It is important that organisations can confidently embrace new technologies and the benefits they bring, and that will involve a number of cyber security challenges to be met. The action required is broad. Success will be premised on strong leadership who understand the issues and can set an agenda which will encompass social responsibility and opportunities for economic growth.”

WEF notes that managing the risks will require businesses and governments to address three things – filling capability gaps with new cyber security tools, creating policy interventions that incentivise collaboration and accountability, and galvanising leadership action from businesses to plan more strategically around emerging risks so the most critical infrastructures do not fail society.

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