Widening disparities, growing threats cloud global cybersecurity outlook: WEF

Other key risks flagged in the report included organised misinformation campaigns on social media or other channels to influence public opinion, cast doubt on election integrity and sway election outcomes.

Widening disparities, growing threats cloud global cybersecurity outlook: WEF

Thursday January 11, 2024,

3 min Read

An average of 8 in 10 top business executives globally feel more or as exposed to cybercrime than they did last year, a new survey showed on Thursday.

The World Economic Forum's Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2024 report, prepared in collaboration with Accenture, also flagged threats posed by AI-generated deepfakes to spread false information about candidates in an election or manipulate public perception.

The warning comes in the wake of more than 45 countries scheduled to hold elections over the next year to determine who governs more than 50% of the world's GDP.

Other key risks flagged in the report included organised misinformation campaigns on social media or other channels to influence public opinion, cast doubt on election integrity and sway election outcomes.

It also warned of AI (artificial intelligence) algorithms to generate and spread large volumes of disinformation, making it harder to detect and combat; and targeted AI-driven microtargeting of misinformation through personalised advertisements to manipulate opinions or suppress voter turnout.

The findings of the study are likely to be discussed in detail by global leaders at the five-day WEF Annual Meeting beginning January 15.

The WEF report also said that there has been a sharp increase in cyber inequity globally, with 90% of executives warning that urgent action is needed to address it.

It further said that 81% of those surveyed feel more or as exposed to cybercrime than they did last year.

While increased geopolitical tensions and economic instability continue to concern industry experts, the report flagged widening cyber inequity and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, as key rising risks for the year ahead in the fast-growing cybersecurity sector.

The report is based on a series of surveys of industry experts and global executives about key cyber trends carried out between June and November 2023.

Given the increasingly complex cyber threat landscape, the report called for concerted collaboration, across borders and industries, to counter these interrelated threats and build a more resilient environment.

The increasingly stark divide between cyber-resilient organisations and those that are struggling has emerged as a key risk for 2024.

"No country or organisation is spared from cybercrime, yet many are direly underequipped to effectively face the threats, and we cannot have effective global response mechanisms without closing the capacity gap," said Jurgen Stock, Secretary-General of INTERPOL.

"It is crucial that key stakeholders work collaboratively towards immediate, strategic actions that can help ensure a more secure and resilient global cyberspace," he added.

On emerging technologies such as AI, the WEF said fewer than one in 10 respondents believe that in the next two years, generative AI will give the advantage to defenders over attackers, and approximately half of experts surveyed agree that generative AI will have the most significant impact on cybersecurity in the next two years.

Its rise is stoking fears among experts about the exacerbation of long-standing challenges, with around half of executives saying that AI-driven advances in adversarial capabilities of cyber criminals (phishing, malware, deepfakes) present the most concerning impact of generative AI on cybersecurity.

Despite these concerns, experts also highlighted an encouraging increase in focus on the importance of cybersecurity globally, particularly at the executive and CEO levels.

The incorporation of cyber resilience into organisational risk management is also becoming more common, as per the report.


Edited by Kanishk Singh