Cybersecurity Takes the Stage at Davos

Nilmini Gunaratne Rubin photo

Inside the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Congress Center, sheltered from the snow and ice of Davos, this year’s theme of “Resilient Dynamism” spurred some provocative conversations at Davos about cybersecurity.  We are witnessing a technology upheaval of our society and economy. Though cybersecurity is now a “mainstream” topic with the Davos crowd, cybersecurity policy is still in its nascent stage.

Cybersecurity was featured in sessions such as:  Building Cyber Resilience; From Systemic Risks to Systemic Opportunities; Reinforcing Critical Infrastructure; and Digital Infrastructure. [Notes: Links are not available to the private sessions.]

Confirming the digital gender divide that I blogged about earlier, less than 9 percent of the cybersecurity presenters were women – lower than the overall 17 percent of 2013 Davos participants that are women.

Some speakers asserted that three types of cyber threats -- cyber criminals, state-sponsored cyber attackers, and cyber terrorists -- are each significantly different, and that “lumping them together as the same risk would be like saying that seeking medical care, hiring body guards, and getting a massage are the same.  After all, they are all about taking care of your body.” 

Considering the potential for “cyber-war,” some argued that government agencies need to become more involved in cybersecurity in a way that “convenes solvers rather than just passing laws and regulations.”  In terms of government approaches to cybersecurity generally, they asserted correctly that cybersecurity requires policies based on flexibility and speed instead of the fixed rules that governments usually promulgate. 

Others added that businesses need to be more transparent about attacks in order to educate other potential victims.  People voicing this opinion asserted that boards of directors “should understand that cyber risks are among the top three risk issues they face” and should review their companies’ preparedness.

Many of the cybersecurity discussions summarized above built off of the WEF report, “Risk and Responsibility in a Hyperconnected World: Pathways to Global Cyber Resilience.”

Some of my favorite conversations in Davos were about the explosive growth of the Internet – which now has 2.4 billion users.  Four percent of the world’s GDP is generated from the Internet and that number is expected to skyrocket.  The Internet will enable changes in health care, energy and education that we can only begin to imagine.  Effective cybersecurity and a flexible policy framework are the necessary preconditions to allow Internet innovation to thrive.

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