Alison Martin, chief risk officer at Zurich Insurance Group, which contributed to the report, said: "Global risks, nowadays, are so interconnected that they can threaten the very systems on which our societies, economies, and worldwide relations are based". "It's fuelled in part by geopolitical trends, which could lead to more state-sponsored attacks, to add to the financially motivated attacks that are already out there".
In the past, these reports have been dominated by economic risks such market collapses, but environmental threats are now considered the biggest challenges facing humanity. "Cyber risks put the regulatory frameworks under pressure as they to adapt to these new high-frequency and high-risk economic threats".
"The estimates now are that if an attacker took down a major cloud provider, the damages could be $50 billion to $120 billion, so something in the range of a Sandy event to a Katrina event". Almost 80 per cent think risks associated with "state-on-state military conflict or incursion" and "regional conflicts drawing in major powers" will be higher than in years past.
The forum has issued its Global Risk Survey citing a "critical period of intensified risks" in the year ahead.
"The reassuring headline indicators mean that economic and financial risks are becoming a blind spot: Business leaders and policymakers are less prepared than they might be for serious economic or financial turmoil", the WEF noted.
The Global Risks Perception Survey quizzed 999 business leaders, politicians and academics - of whom 70 percent were male - on 30 potential global risks, ranging from deflation and asset bubbles to natural disasters, terrorist attacks and water crises.
"Notable examples included the WannaCry attack, which affected 300 000 computers across 150 countries, and NotPetya, which caused quarterly losses of US$300 million [R3.7 billion] for a number of affected businesses".
In 2016 alone, 357 million new malware variants were released, and "banking trojans" created to steal account login details could be purchased for as little as $500, the report said.
"Geopolitical friction is contributing to a surge in the scale and sophistication of cyberattacks".
At the same time, companies' cyber exposure is growing. I think about the proliferation of interconnected devices-there's now today 8.4 billion of those out there, so already greater than the global population of 7.6 billion, and projected to grow to 20 billion in 2020, so that just widens the attack surface for companies to potential attacks. What's more, for the first time in years, Co2 emissions increased in 2017, putting the Paris climate accord's goal of net-zero emissions by about 2050 even further out of reach. Top concerns revolved around geopolitical developments such as: political and economic confrontation, state-on-state military conflict, and regional conflict within major powers.
According to the GRPS, cyber threats are growing in prominence, with large-scale cyberattacks now ranked third in terms of likelihood, while rising cyber-dependency is ranked as the second most significant driver shaping the global risks landscape over the next 10 years. Private and confidential: The Cyber Security Report, in partnership with Schillings, went on to reveal 42% never audited their publicly available data.
Kirill Kasavchenko, Principal Security Technologist, EMEA, NETSCOUT Arbor, notes that collaboration and intelligence sharing should be at the core of the global response to reducing the risk of cyber attacks.
The report - which every January shares the perspectives of global experts and decision-makers on the most significant risks that face the world - cautions that we are struggling to keep up with the accelerating pace of change.
However, as in 2017, the environment was by far the greatest concern raised by experts.