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‘On the rise’: WEF’s major warning over global threat

Jessica Yun
·3-min read
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 30: Prime Minister Scott Morrison delivers a press conference to media virtually from The Lodge on November 30, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. Prime Minister Scott Morrison is attending parliament virtually while he completes 14 days of quarantine at The Lodge following his visit to Japan. (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)
Australia is the world's sixth-most targeted country for cyber-attacks, according to the World Economic Forum. (Photo by Sam Mooy/Getty Images)

“Cybersecurity failures” have been named by the World Economic Forum as one of the biggest threats to the world in the coming two years.

The World Economic Forum’s 16th edition of the Global Risks Report 2021 analyses economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological risks to the world, and with cyber attacks named as the top global tech-related danger.

“Business, government and household cybersecurity infrastructure and/or measures are outstripped or rendered obsolete by increasingly sophisticated and frequent cybercrimes, resulting in economic disruption, financial loss, geopolitical tensions and/ or social instability,” the report said.

After a year defined by COVID-19, “infectious diseases” was at the top of the list, with 58 report respondents naming this as a chief concern, followed by “livelihood crises” at 55.1 per cent.

(Source: World Economic Forum Global Risk Report 2021)
(Source: World Economic Forum Global Risk Report 2021)

More than half of respondents (52.7 per cent) also had climate change top of mind, with “extreme weather events” named as the third concern.

“Cybersecurity failure” was the top technological risk, with 39 per cent of respondents deeming this a “clear and present danger” to the world in the next two years.

“Among the highest likelihood risks of the next ten years are extreme weather, climate action failure and human-led environmental damage; as well as digital power concentration, digital inequality and cybersecurity failure,” the WEF report said.

Australians lost more than $176 million to scams last year alone.

Between 1 July 2019 and 30 June last year, the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) recorded 2,266 cybersecurity incidents, or about six a day.

The Federal Government released the national Cyber Security Strategy 2020 on August last year, which injected $1.67 billion over 10 years to help Australian individuals and organisations protect against sophisticated cyber threats.

‘On the rise’

The United States has been the primary target of significant cyberattacks since 2006, the report revealed, with Australia sixth on the list.

Cyberattacks are expected to increase, alongside the spread of misinformation, according to the report.

“Misinformation, cyberattacks, targeted strikes and resource grabs are on the rise. The pandemic has shown how governments can wield conspiracy theories as geopolitical weapons by making accusations about other states,” it said.

“The next decade is likely to see more frequent and impactful dissemination of disinformation on issues of geopolitical importance such as elections, humanitarian crises, public health, security and cultural issues.”

“States and nonstate actors alike will likely engage in more dangerous cyberattacks, and these attacks will become more sophisticated. Targeted strikes—through drones or other technologies—will become more ubiquitous.”

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