The 16th edition of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report analyses the risks from societal fractures—manifested through persistent and emerging risks to human health, rising unemployment, widening digital divides, youth disillusionment, and geopolitical fragmentation. Among the highest impact risks of the next decade, infectious diseases are in the top spot, followed by climate action failure and other environmental risks; as well as weapons of mass destruction, livelihood crises, debt crises and IT infrastructure breakdown, the World Economic Forum says. 

The report also ranked cybersecurity failure as a critical threat to the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated technological adoption, yet exposed cyber vulnerabilities and unpreparedness, while at the same time exacerbated the tech inequalities within and between societies, says the World Economic Forum. 

Looking ahead, it will be critical to continue elevating cybersecurity as a strategic business issue and develop more partnerships between industries, business leaders, regulators and policymakers as it cannot be addressed in silos. 

Hitesh Sheth, President and CEO at Vectra, notes, “Without secure, high-functioning IT, addressing all the other crises the report names, from climate to digital inequality, becomes much harder. For years our well-understood cyber vulnerabilities have been met with too much rhetoric, too little real action. I know the political challenge of marshaling consensus to avert an emergency that hasn’t yet blown up in everyone’s face. Still, the SolarWinds critical infrastructure attack was a probable harbinger of more to come. It’s imperative that we dial up urgency on cybersecurity in the public and private sectors alike.”

Yaniv Bar-Dayan, CEO and co-founder at Vulcan Cyber, says, “‘Cybersecurity failure’ is correctly ranked as a top-four, short-term risk and is a clear and present threat to the world. Even more alarming is the direct correlation cybersecurity has to other threats on the global risk horizon such as digital inequality, IT infrastructure breakdowns, and even terrorist attacks and weapons of mass destruction as the traditional definitions of both ‘terrorism’ and ‘weapons’ are becoming more related to cybersecurity in our digital world. Fortunately, we have more control over cybersecurity risks than we do over other threats like infectious diseases and extreme weather events. However, the IT security industry must be much more diligent and proactive in improving the cyber hygiene of our digital infrastructure.”