World Economic Forum warns of growing ‘cyber insecurity’ amid heightened threat landscape

The World Economic Forum logo inside the Congress Center ahead of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland
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‘Cyber insecurity’ is among the most pressing issues facing organizations globally in 2024, according to new research from the World Economic Forum (WEF). 

In its Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2024 report, the WEF found more than eight in ten of organizations surveyed feel more or as exposed to cyber crime than they did last year.

The report, produced in collaboration with Accenture, called for greater collaboration across various sectors - and borders - to create a more resilient operating environment for businesses.

"As the cyber realm evolves in response to emerging technologies and shifting geopolitical and economic trends, so do the challenges that threaten our digital world," said Jeremy Jurgens, WEF managing director.

"We urgently need coordinated action by key public-private stakeholders if we are to collectively address these complex, ever-evolving threats and build a secure digital future for all."

According to the WEF, there's an increasingly stark divide between cyber resilient organizations and those that are struggling to contend with emerging threats.

The number of organizations that maintain minimum viable cyber resilience is down 30% compared with last year.

While large organizations have demonstrated notable gains in cyber resilience, small and medium-sized companies showed significant decline, the WEF said.

Meanwhile, the cyber skills and talent shortage continues to widen rapidly, with only 15% of all organizations optimistic that cyber skills and education will significantly improve over the next two years.

"No country or organization is spared from cyber crime, yet many are direly underequipped to effectively face the threats, and we cannot have effective global response mechanisms without closing the capacity gap," said Jürgen Stock, secretary-general of Interpol.

Generative AI will have a marked impact on cyber security

Around half the experts surveyed agreed that generative AI will have the most significant impact on cyber security in the next two years.

Half of the executives polled said that AI-driven advances in adversarial capabilities of cyber criminals, such as phishing, malware, and deepfakes, present the most concerning impact of generative AI with regard to security.

Meanwhile, fewer than one-in-ten respondents believe that in the next two years generative AI will give the advantage to defenders over attackers.

However, the report found that applying emerging technologies to foundational security elements offers a 'powerful opportunity' for practitioners globally.

The study suggested that software engineers can partner with LLMs to work towards developing more complete, secure code, eliminating some of the human-error aspects of the software development lifecycle.


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Meanwhile, data classification can be automated with the help of generative AI, and LLMs can also be used in security operations centers (SOCs) to automate or assist analysts to threat-hunt with greater accuracy and efficiency.

The WEF’s suggestions regarding the positive applications of generative AI align closely with the recent remarks of a senior figure at the NSA on the topic.

Earlier this month, Rob Joyce, director of cyber security at the agency, told delegates to a Fordham University event that generative AI is "absolutely making us better at finding malicious activity".

He said that cyber security teams can now use AI and LLMs to aggregate activity and identify malicious activity by looking for anomalous patterns.

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.