A global convention on cyber security? Davos explores tech vulnerabilities

Businesses cite data breaches as their biggest worry and the stakes are high

(FILES) This file photo taken on January 16, 2017 shows the ski resort of Davos on the eve of the opening day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Government and business leaders will trek to the freezing Swiss Alps for the annual World Economic Forum held from January 22 to 25, 2019. / AFP / FABRICE COFFRINI
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The World Economic Forum is bringing together the biggest technology companies and governments to discuss ways to increase the robustness of global infrastructure against the threat of cyber-crime.

This week at the forum’s annual meeting in Davos, representatives of consumer groups will take part in a broad dialogue with ministers and technology companies. They will discuss how to put together a global framework for meeting the challenge from the rising risks of technology, said Mirek Dusek, the body’s deputy head for regional and geopolitical affairs and a member of its executive committee.

“We are at the beginning of really understanding fully how this [framework] will look like. What is important is, because technologies change so much and so rapidly, we catch up with this progress to make sure we secure it with an adequate response,” he said.

Around $600 billion (Dh2.203 trillion) is lost to cyber crime each year, according to the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Attending the annual meeting will be a number of officials and senior executives focused on technology, including India’s Information Technology Minister Lokesh Nara and Microsoft President Brad Smith.

A session on Global Governance 4.0 asks if the world needs a “Digital Geneva Convention to extend humanitarian principles in cyberspace?”.

Mr Dusek said some of the issues that would come up in Davos include how big technology companies and governments can work together more effectively and also that larger firms could support smaller companies to make sure the entire ecosystem is robust, leaving fewer weak links or vulnerabilities. Countries with greater resources and expertise could potentially share capabilities wherever possible, he said.


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“It is all about really bringing everyone to a level that is safer for all of us. There is a lot of knowledge out there but there is not necessarily a mechanism for sharing,” Mr Dusek said.

In a survey, released last week by the forum about the top risks for businesses in the next ten years, executives in the UAE focused on technology-related concerns including cyber-attacks, data fraud and the misuse of technology. The Emirates bucked the regional trend.

While the top two risks across the Middle East and North Africa “are economic in character – energy price shock and unemployment or underemployment … the United Arab Emirates is something of a regional outlier,” the forum said.

UAE respondents focused on technology-related risks in a very similar way to their counterparts in Europe and North America, it said.

“However, although the UAE’s focus on technological risks is unusually pronounced, it is not unique. The combination of increasing sophistication in the regional economy and a global trend towards increased corporate focus on cyber risks, in particular, is evident in a number of other MENA countries,” such as Saudi Arabia, the forum said.

Worldwide, cyber breaches are the most feared corporate risk this year, according to the Allianz Risk Barometer 2019.