World Economic Forum explores emerging cybersecurity challenges, solutions

01 March 2012 | Martin Slijkhuis, Public Safety and National Security Industry Lead, Microsoft Western Europe

Cybersecurity was one of the major topics framing the agenda of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland last month. Numerous sessions addressed the impact that evolving threats and technologies are having on global society, politics, and economies. The urge to improve information sharing and to construct appropriate safeguards to reduce cyber threats in the coming decade will be the fundamental driver for the dialogue. In this post, we explore two key sessions from the meeting: Cybersecurity and Risks in a Hyperconnected World.

The New Reality of Cybersecurity, defined by Craig Mundie, Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy officer, discussed the most challenging threats to cyber security, and how those threats shape online behavior. The explosive growth of targeted attacks and mobile, Internet-capable devices have made cybersecurity much more complicated. Two major trends have been identified:

Switching the general parlance from "cybersecurity" to "cybervulnerability" could improve people's overall understanding of risks and decrease human-related errors and vulnerabilities

Granted, replacing one of the most commonly used terms in IT security would be a tall order. Given how serious today’s cyber threat environment is, however, changing essential vocabulary might help people better appreciate and enact the risk-management ethos essential for effective protection. Both the second and third sessions (see below) included comments that "cybersecurity" is too broad a term, and that industry and governments should agree upon more specific terminology.

Big data analysis can find connections among disparate data and reduce Internet anonymity

It is a common trope that no one is anonymous on the Internet, but advances in analytics and handling big data are making it easier to identify people by connecting the dots among people’s far-flung information, sometimes against their wishes. This capability certainly has powerful implications for public safety and national security, as well as for authentication and privacy technologies.

Risks in a Hyperconnected World posited that international collaboration on cybersecurity that would benefit from creating a globally funded, multi-stakeholder regulatory organization akin to the International Monetary Fund. The panelists argued that if established, the organization could help ameliorate the risk that unequal access to IT security technologies would encourage cybercriminals and help close the global Digital Divide between wealthy nations and groups that can afford security technologies and those that can’t.

Global Risks 2012: The Dark Side of Connectivity presented the case that integrated international collaboration, aided by neutral global governance bodies, is essential to address cybersecurity issues. Speakers advocated including cyber risk in standard corporate reporting and encouraged global adoption of best practices through uniform and consistent processes, like the efforts of the World Economic Forum’s own Partnering for Cyber Resilience initiative.

It is encouraging that cybersecurity’s role in public safety and national security is taking an ever more prominent role at one of the world’s most influential thought leadership conferences. What do you think of the issues and solutions discussed at Davos? Feel free to share your insights and perspectives.

Have a comment or opinion on this post or a question for the author? Let me know @MicrosoftPSNS or email us at safetyanddefense@microsoft.com.

Martin Slijkhuis
Public Safety and National Security Industry Lead, Microsoft Western Europe

About the Author

Martin Slijkhuis | Public Safety and National Security Industry Lead, Microsoft Western Europe

Martin advises defense, justice, and police organizations on emerging technologies for defense transformation and citizen safety architecture. This includes bridging knowledge transfer for governments developing strategies to address cyber threats.