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COVID-19 has led to an acceleration of cyber-attacks targeting those working from home, hospital systems and financial institutions. However, the next wave of cybersecurity risks will not be a continuation of these challenges, and incremental progress will not be enough to stop them.

According to The Future Series Report, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, digital identity systems (such as e-passports) and the ubiquitous connectivity of devices and networks are transforming the foundations of cyberspace and have brought the industry to a watershed moment.

“The dynamics of cybersecurity are changing,” said Will Dixon, Cybersecurity Lead, World Economic Forum. “Broadly speaking, we have been doing cybersecurity the same way for the past 15 years and it’s not going to work anymore. What has changed is that now, the criminals of the future can easily exploit these emerging technologies and our growing interconnectivity at a scale not seen before. The good news is that there are ways to protect our personal data, mitigate the impact on global trade and security and ensure our society isn’t hit with another shock.”

“The research points to the likelihood of systemic cyber-risks, and a potential cyber-resilience deficit if no action is taken,” said Professor Sadie Creese, University of Oxford. “It is important that organisations can confidently embrace new technologies and the benefits they bring, and that will involve a number of cybersecurity challenges to be met. The action required is broad. Success will be premised on strong leadership who understand the issues and can set an agenda which will encompass social responsibility and opportunities for economic growth.”

Managing the risks will require businesses and governments to address three things: filling capability gaps with new cybersecurity tools, creating policy interventions that incentivize collaboration and accountability and galvanizing leadership action from businesses to plan more strategically around emerging risks so the most critical infrastructures do not fail society.

The report identifies 15 urgent, coordinated actions needed to avoid real threats to our society. The security and technology community, industry and government leaders and the international community are key players in developing these new capabilities. Notably, this will also help create much needed jobs. There is a growing demand for roles in cybersecurity and encryption, according to the World Economic Forum. Cybersecurity specialists and Information Security are roles in high demand as companies race to adopt encryption and security measures.

“There is a growing cyber capability gap,” Dixon said. “To tackle the threats of tomorrow, companies and countries need to expand their capacity, this means jobs, and a lot of them.”

The 14-month study, conducted by the World Economic Forum and the University of Oxford, is the first study to examine how shifts in technology will impact the cybersecurity industry. It is based on the expertise of more than 100 leaders in the cybersecurity community spanning businesses, governments, academia and civil society. Through a series of workshops, interviews, and surveys, it aimed to answer the question: Will our individual and collective approach to managing cyber risks be sustainable in the face of the major technology trends taking place in the near future.

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