Is a Cyber Catastrophe Possible in the 2020s?


October 25, 2023

Sharp Decisions
digital technology and eCommerce

With today’s increased dependence on digital technology and eCommerce, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing dramatic increases in cyber crime throughout the world. The FBI’s IC3, its Internet Crime Complaint Center, has reported a major increase in received cybersecurity complaints, receiving between 3,000 and 4,000 cybersecurity complaints each day during the COVID-19 pandemic, a major jump from about 1,000 complaints per day prior to the pandemic.  

At the recently concluded 2023 annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, cybersecurity took center stage, along with climate change, as a key issue that posed a significant global threat. As geopolitical tensions escalate, in part due to the prolonged war in Ukraine and a renewed Russian offensive, it is thought that malicious cyber operations could occur as part of a concerted hybrid warfare effort.  

In addressing the seriousness of the current situation, the European Union Cybersecurity Agency (ENISA) recently issued an alert about several Advanced Persistent Threat (APTs) actors conducting malicious cyber activities against businesses and governments in the EU. In addition, according to the latest data from Google, there has been a spike in state-sponsored cyber-attacks, resulting in a 300% increase targeting users in NATO countries, compared to 2020.

Enormous Security Risks Add Up to Enormous Costs

Perhaps the most concerning prediction to emanate from the Forum was the belief that a Cyber Catastrophe is imminent within the next two years. And with combined ransomware attacks costing counties trillions of dollars each year, a Cyber Catastrophe (an event which produces damaging mass effect, including casualties and destruction), would only increase these costs.  

In fact, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, by 2025 it’s estimated that cyber crime will cost the world economy around $10.5 trillion annually, increasing from $3 trillion in 2015. If cyber crime were a country, it would have the third largest GDP behind only the US and China.  

Forum leaders expressed that achieving cyber resilience is one of the biggest cybersecurity challenges the world faces and cautioned that it is not a one-time or a one-actor effort, but rather an objective that calls for a highly collaborative approach which stretches across all borders and businesses.

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