Geopolitical instability is exacerbating the risk of catastrophic cyberattacks, according to the Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2023 report, which was launched today at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2023 in Davos. Over 93% of cybersecurity experts and 86% of business leaders believe “a far-reaching, catastrophic cyber event is likely in the next two years” and there is a critical skills gap that is threatening societies and key infrastructure.
The Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2023 findings were based on surveys, workshops and interviews with over 300 experts and C-suite executives. Half of the companies surveyed said the current landscape is making them re-evaluate the countries in which their organization does business.
Despite challenges, organizations are improving cyber resilience, one of the key priorities of the World Economic Forum’s Centre for Cybersecurity. The report, written in collaboration with Accenture, says that awareness and preparation will help organizations balance the value of new technology against the cyber risk that comes with it.
The report highlights the need to address the shortage of talent and skilled experts. Some 34% of cybersecurity experts said they lacked some skills in their team, with 14% saying they lacked critical skills. The problem is more pronounced in key sectors such as energy utilities, where nearly 25% of cybersecurity experts said they lacked the necessary critical skills to protect their organizations’ operations. Expanding the cybersecurity talent pool is needed to solve this problem. Several successful cybersecurity skills programmes are under way around the world, but many have difficulty scaling to large numbers. Greater cross-industry collaboration and public-private is needed to overcome this.
Geopolitics is reshaping the legal, regulatory and technological environment. “As global instability increases cyber risk, this report calls for a renewed focus on cooperation. All stakeholders from public and private sectors who are responsible for our common digital infrastructure must work together to build security, resilience and trust,” said Jeremy Jurgens, Managing Director, World Economic Forum.
Perspectives from cybersecurity experts and business leaders
“The research shows that business leaders are now more aware of their organizations’ cyber risks, however, there is the need to go further to assessing and translating the business risk into actionable next steps across the entire organization. Long-term cyber resilience requires a closely coordinated team effort across the C-suite to gain a clearer view of the cyber risks so security can be embedded in all strategic business priorities and protect the digital core. As our digitally connected world expands, now is the time to build cyber resilient businesses for customers, employees and supply chain partners.”
Paolo Dal Cin, Global Lead, Accenture Security
On addressing the skills gap:
“The threat landscape continues to expand and evolve with cyber adversaries targeting organizations of all sizes, locations and industries around the world. The disruption of operations or services and the compromise of data due to cyberattacks against the backdrop of a global skills gap places every individual, organization and even nation at risk. When we work together to encourage best practices we see greater progress in the fight against cybercrime. Shared data and trusted global partnerships can enable more effective responses and better predict future attack strategies to deter adversary efforts.”
Ken Xie, Founder, Chairman of the Board and CEO, Fortinet
Leaders are now more likely than one year ago to see data privacy laws and cybersecurity regulations as an effective tool for reducing cyber risks across a sector. But speed is an issue.
“Standardization can take 18 months but a cyberattack takes seconds. The speed at which emerging technologies are implemented often outpaces our ability to build security measures around them. We need to go beyond simple compliance with regulations if organizations are to be cyber-resilient.”
Hoda Al Khzaimi, Director, Centre for Cybersecurity, Founder and Director EMARTSEC, New York University (NYU), Abu Dhabi
On investing in cybersecurity:
According to the report, the speed at which new technologies are implemented means that real and lasting cyber resilience comes from embedding cybersecurity into an organization’s culture and decision-making processes.
“Cyber attackers don’t rest with macro-economic challenges, they double down on them. There is no path to success that is not heavily driven by AI and automation. As companies accelerate their digital transformation journeys, the time for reimagining and investing in cybersecurity architectures – intelligent platforms – is now. Boards and the C-suite must embrace a strategy whereby cybersecurity is deeply embedded across the enterprise from operations to innovation. Only then will organizations be able to create a state of resilience that enables, not inhibits, their strategic business outcomes.”
Nikesh Arora, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman, Palo Alto Networks
A lingering, vexing challenge is how to price cybersecurity. “Board members are interested in risk, opportunities and investment in cost,” said one survey respondent. “We need to better respond to the question, ‘What is the return?’ How do I know this is a good investment across the myriad of things that I could potentially be invested in? How can we improve at making effective metrics to help boards make better-informed decisions?”
Cybersecurity is also influencing strategic business decisions, with 50% of participants in the Cybersecurity Outlook 2023 research saying that cybersecurity was a consideration when they evaluated which countries in which to invest and do business.
Building a cyber-resilient organization:
Compared with last year, the report found that board-level executives are more likely to prioritize cyber risk and are more aware of their own role in addressing it. This has led to increased interaction with cybersecurity leaders, “cyber leaders, business leaders and boards of directors are now communicating more directly and more often”. The bad news is that they “continue to speak different languages”.
All too often, when security and business leaders discuss cybersecurity, the rapidly evolving contours of cyber-risks get lost in translation. Chief information security officers may fail to convey the complex data they have gathered – on risk points, threat actors, mapping of criminal campaigns – into an accessible story that results in specific mitigating actions in their organizations.
Instead, they need to tell stories that align with their corporate and business priorities. “Boards should be presented with a cyber posture that resonates with customers’ and authorities’ expectations and helps address sectorial ecosystem challenges,” said Christophe Blassiau, Senior Vice-President, Cybersecurity & Global Chief Information Security Officer, Schneider Electric.
Despite this challenge, the report found the disconnect between cybersecurity managers and business executive has begun to close. Both increasingly perceive the elevated degree of risk exposure and are allocating more resources to coordinate responses in an effective manner. The priority today is on speed.