Mon | Jan 25, 2021 | 3:50 AM PST

The World Economic Forum has published the 16th edition of its Global Risks Report

The report analyzes the risks from societal fractures, such as the global pandemic we have all been living through for almost a year now.

The entire report dives deep into persistent and emerging risks to human health, rising unemployment, widening digital divides, youth disillusionment, and geopolitical fragmentation.

Cybersecurity failure a 'clear and present danger'

The pandemic has exacerbated the issues of cybersecurity for many organizations. Throughout the past year, there have been many documented cases of security failures that have severely impacted victims of cyberattacks. 

One of the first sections of the report is the results of a "Global Risks Perception Survey." The survey looks into the global risks horizon, landscape, network, and evolving risks.

For short-term risks (0-2 years), which they define as "clear and present dangers," cybersecurity failure ranked fourth on the list.

Hitesh Sheth, President and CEO at Vectra, responds to cybersecurity failure being ranked as high as it is:

"The only surprise in the World Economic Forum Global Risks Report is that cybersecurity failure isn't ranked higher. Without secure, high-functioning IT, addressing all the other crises the report names, from climate to digital inequality, becomes much harder. For years, our well-understood cyber vulnerabilities have been met with too much rhetoric, too little real action. I know the political challenge of marshaling consensus to avert an emergency that hasn't yet blown up in everyone's face. But the SolarWinds critical infrastructure attack was a probable harbinger of more to come. It's imperative that we dial up urgency on cybersecurity in the public and private sectors alike."

Sheth is not the only cybersecurity professional who feels this way.

Yaniv Bar-Dayan, CEO and co-founder at Vulcan Cyber, also feels that cyber risk is appropriately ranked: 

"'Cybersecurity failure' is correctly ranked as a top-four, short-term risk and is a clear and present threat to the world. Even more alarming is the direct correlation cybersecurity has to other threats on the global risk horizon such as digital inequality, IT infrastructure breakdowns, and even terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction as the traditional definitions of both 'terrorism' and 'weapons' are becoming more related to cybersecurity in our digital world.

So the question becomes, 'what can we do to reduce risk and minimize the threat of cybersecurity failure to the citizens and businesses of this world?' Fortunately, we have more control over cybersecurity risks than we do over other threats like infectious diseases and extreme weather events. But the IT security industry must be much more diligent and proactive in improving the cyber hygiene of our digital infrastructure. It isn't easy, but it is very possible to protect ourselves from the inevitable repercussions of at least one of these major threats on the global risk horizon."

Barriers to digital inclusivity 

The Global Risks Report continues to look at how the cybersecurity and digital landscapes will evolve in the future, and what the risks are.

In a section titled "Error 404: Barriers to Digital Inclusivity," the report looks into how the digital landscapes are changing.

"COVID-19 has accelerated and broadened the Fourth Industrial Revolution with the rapid expansion of e-commerce, online education, digital health and remote work. These shifts will continue to dramatically transform human interactions and livelihoods long after the pandemic is behind us. This change can provide huge benefits to societies—the response to COVID-19 is full of examples,
from the ability to telework to the rapid development of a vaccine.
However, these developments also risk exacerbating and creating inequalities. Respondents to the Global Risks Perception Survey (GRPS) rated 'digital inequality' both as a critical threat to the world over the next two years and the seventh most likely long-term risk."

The section looks into a wealth of statistical data to provide information on how to navigate the quickly evolving digital landscape.

It warns of a widening digital gap and how it can undermine an inclusive recovery from COVID-19. It says that by 2025, there will be a 4x increase in generated data that will require a significant investment in upskilling and reskilling, and that 85 million jobs will become automated.

It also cautions that "Reliance on algorithms that exacerbate inequalities can damage well-being and amplify societal fractures."

The full report provides incredibly in-depth information about cybersecurity risks and other general risks to the global population.

If you wish to read more, you can find the report here.