Friday, 24 January 2014

Digital Disintegration as Global Risk

In the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Risks for 2014, digital disintegration is regarded as one of the three risks in which possible interconnections and interdependencies between global risks, could play out systemically over the next 10-year horizon.

In terms of digital disintegration the WEF states: “So far, cyberspace has proved resilient to attacks, but the underlying dynamic of the online world has always been that it is easier to attack than defend. The world may be only one disruptive technology away from attackers gaining a runaway advantage, meaning the Internet would cease to be a trusted medium for communication or commerce. Fresh thinking at all levels on how to preserve, protect and govern the common good of a trusted cyberspace must be developed.”

In terms of the evolving Global Risks Landscape, the issue of cyber-attacks is listed as the fifth most likely risk to manifest in 2014 which in terms of impact could lead to critical information infrastructure breakdown.

Fresh thinking may indeed be necessary to successfully manage this quite serious risk. While earlier predictions about a digital Pearl Harbour now seems sensationalistic, it remains clear that actions taking down parts of the Internet could have devastating consequences.

However, cyber threats are much more complex and cross cutting than stated in the WEF study. Cyber threats are but one manifestation of a much more serious and complex phenomena, namely information warfare, which are already morphing into a national security threat of note.

The reality is that nearly all recent conflict situations have had an information dimension. While information warfare is enhancing power, especially in developing countries, it is also creating new vulnerabilities. It can be assumed that this trend will continue and nearly all future conflict situations will have an information warfare dimension.

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