G7 countries perceive cyber attacks as the second biggest risk to their countries after extreme weather events, according to the Munich Security Report 2024, published on Monday (12 February) ahead of the Munich Security Conference.
The report is published every year before the conference, summarising current security policy issues and serving as a basis for discussions. This year, the report reveals that cyber-attack risk has reached the highest level yet.
“Technology was once a driver of economic growth, but also of global networking. Today, it is a key arena for competition between systems,” Tobias Bunde, director of research & policy at the Munich Security Conference (MSC), said during a press conference.
The risk of cyberattacks
According to the Munich Security Index (MSI), the perceived threat of cyber attacks has risen by five places since last year.
“According to the risk index, risk perception has changed strongly in the past few years. Topics have risen and fallen in the rankings,” Valentin Weber, a research fellow at DGAP’s Centre for Geopolitics, Geo-economics and Technology, told Euractiv.
While cyber risks have consistently ranked high alongside climate risks, the situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon.
“This is because they are systemic risks, which will likely remain a priority. Unlike other risks like the corona pandemic, policyEuractiv interviewed Nicolas Sonder and Mailin von Knobelsdorff, PwC experts on cybersecurity to provide an overview of the state of plamakers have to continuously deal with cyber risks in the coming years,” Weber added.
However, the results of the report should also be considered in light of the news coverage, according to Jörn Müller-Quade, head of the research group “Cryptography and Security” at the KIT (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) and director at the FZI (Research Center for Information Technology).
“The results of surveys only provide an insight into the current risk perception of the population and are heavily influenced by the topics that are currently in the news,” Müller-Quade told Euractiv, explaining that if there had been a spectacular hack in the period before the survey, the risk would certainly have been assessed higher.
Cyber risks for Germany
Although the cyberattack index for Germany has fallen slightly since the last survey, from 74 to 70, the perceived risk of cyberattacks on Germany still ranks third out of all 32 risks.
The index also revealed that 74% of the German respondents considered cyber attacks an imminent risk, the highest score of all threats.
Müller-Quade considered the perceived threat of cyber attacks by the German respondents as realistic while pointing out that many companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, are not well prepared against cyber risks.
While considering the IT Security Act 2.0 a major step to secure critical infrastructures, Müller-Quade advises the German government that clear guidelines for the industry setting standards could help to improve cyber security.
“Other areas also need more security. For example, an obligation to provide security updates would be a step in the right direction,” Müller-Quade said.
At present, it is still unclear what the future will look like and how emerging technologies such as AI will affect the number and severity of cyberattacks.
“Attacks using AI, for example, will certainly increase significantly, but it is not entirely clear what effects are to be expected,” the KIT expert explained.
“Especially because disinformation does not hack machines, but attacks people,” he added.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]
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