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WEF Highlights: Cybersecurity And Fake News Pose Biggest Threats To The World

As technology continues to advance and more people incorporate technology into their lives, so does the threat of cybersecurity increase. This is why according to the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Risks Report 2018, large-scale cyberattacks are now the third biggest threat to the world in terms of likelihood, only behind natural disasters and extreme weather events.

Imagine how much reliant the world is now on the web, and how many billions of dollars and how the security and identities of millions of people are in danger when a breach in cybersecurity is made.

In 2017, two of the biggest global cyberattacks, WannaCry in May and NotPetya in June, cost businesses and individuals millions of dollars. The WannaCry ransomware attack took a hold more than 300,000 computers across 150 countries, with total damages of up to billions of dollars. NotPetya caused a huge global upheaval as well, attacking 80 companies in countries around the globe—including the National Bank of Ukraine. When infrastructures and systems are exposed to cyberattacks, essential services and lives are immediately disrupted—sometimes to an unrepairable extent.

Cybersecurity breaches in all levels have almost doubled in the last five years and the costs of repairing damages continue to escalate. In a 2017 study by Accenture, the cost of responding to cyberattacks is already around $11.7 million per company.

And unlike in traditional warfare, where it’s almost always obvious where the attack is coming from, cyberattacks such as ransomware and data breaches make it tremendously hard to track the perpetrator. The difficulty in tracing back the cyberattacks to their source and the absence of “ground rules of cyberwarfare” make it only a much more terrifying threat to humanity.

Fake news or digital wildfires have also made it to the radar of the WEF after allegations that fake news were instrumental to the outcomes of the Brexit referendum and the US presidential elections. The level of impact and prevalence of digital wildfires continue to escalate in the recent years as social media becomes deeply ingrained in the process that people consume information. One study cited by the WEF report said that the top 20 fake news stories outperformed the top 20 stories from major news sources in terms of shares, reactions, and comments. Fake news also engaged more people, up 53 percent from the last three months.

As Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg addresses this problem, many critics believe that his efforts will not be enough to mitigate the already done effects of fake news.

The report adds, “Among the key issues raised were the intentional use of social media to spread misinformation (for example, through the use of fake accounts to smear or impersonate political opponents), the difficulty of correcting misinformation when it spreads within trusted networks, global governance challenges, and the danger that some governments might use well-intentioned constraints on misinformation to limit freedom of speech.”