World Economy

WEF Launches Global Center for Cybersecurity

WEF founder and chairman Klaus Schwab says: Our world has become fractured by increasing competition between nations and deep divides within societies. Yet the sheer scale of the challenges our world faces makes concerted, collaborative and integrated act
Alain Berset (L) and Klaus Schwab at the WEF on January 4.Alain Berset (L) and Klaus Schwab at the WEF on January 4.

In a bid to safeguard the world from hackers and growing data breaches—especially from nation-states—the World Economic Forum on Wednesday announced a new Global Center for Cybersecurity. Headquartered in Geneva, the center will become operational from March.

"Cyber security has been the most pressing issue of our times. We badly need a platform to ward off cyber criminals. The center will help bring all the stakeholders together in achieving that," Alois Zwinggi, managing director, WEF, said during a panel discussion in Davos, news outlets reported.

"We need to collaborate with the governments as well as international organizations. To begin with, we will reach out to key industry players and G-20 countries to make this platform a success for dialogue and real-time action on cyber threats," Zwinggi added.

Cyber breaches recorded by businesses are on the rise. In the last five years, these have almost doubled to an average of 130 breaches per business in 2017.

As a borderless problem, urgent action is needed to create a safe operating environment for new technologies like Artificial Intelligence, robotics, drones, self-driving cars and the Internet of Things, the WEF said.

"I see across the landscape cyber security threats looming. Threats are getting bigger in scale. Criminal abuse of virtual currencies is happening at a faster rate. Data breaches are impacting billions of users," said Rob Wainwright, director, Europol.

"The banking sector is in the firing line. Professional cyber criminals are after high-value targets like banks while state-sponsored activities are blending with a growing breed of cybercriminals. We need to fight back as well via building new networks," Wainwright told the audience, IANS reported.

According to Kim Koro, senior vice president, Qualcomm Technologies, these are powerful times, especially with the smartphone revolution.

"After smartphones, IoT is connecting billions of devices and you can imagine the kind of cyber threats emerging then. Qualcomm is collaborating with the industry and equipment manufacturers to address those," Koro said.

"The global center will be an excellent opportunity to safeguard verticals like automotive and health care where wireless connectivity is the key. We also need actionable insights as we enter the world of 5G connectivity," she noted.

A Fractured World

WEF founder and chairman Klaus Schwab noted: "Our world has become fractured by increasing competition between nations and deep divides within societies. Yet the sheer scale of the challenges our world faces makes concerted, collaborative and integrated action more essential than ever."

He suggested that these fault lines can be overcome by "renewing social contracts through inclusive growth," which can only be achieved through globalization and international cooperation, not nationalism and protectionism.

Year of Collaboration

The 48th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting opened Tuesday in Davos, a ski resort town of Switzerland, with heads of state and government calling for 2018 to be the year of collaboration and multilateralism to address major global challenges like climate change, terrorism and protectionism.

Climate change tops the list of common challenges faced by today's world, but the world has done little so far to tackle the greatest threat to all human civilizations, according to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his speech at the opening plenary.

To hit climate change at its core, the world, while stepping up cooperation, needs to change the world's fundamental mindset from "greed-based consumption" to "frugal consumption", so as to avoid over exploitation of the nature and achieve "harmony between men and nature," he warned.

Modi's appeal was echoed by the president of the Swiss Confederation, Alain Berset who sees climate change, terrorism, and peace and security as the major fractures in today's world.

And his solution is made clear—keep promoting multilateralism and free trade to build a fair society in which resentment and anger are eased, everybody's social status elevated, and the overall social equation improved.

The year of 2018 should be the year of international collaboration and multilateralism, and let nationalists and protectionists be a passing phase, Berset urged.

Rapid Rise in Debt

Excess global debt is a major concern for JPMorgan's international chairman. Speaking at the forum, Jacob Frenkel said: "My main concern is problems arise, always, when you are overly optimistic (and) when you take too much debt. This was the main lesson from all the previous crises," CNBC reported.

Frenkel said that an apparent air of optimism among global business and political leaders attending Davos this year was "justified" because the economic performance of each and every region of the world was better than the previous year. 'Rapid rise in debt' is reason for concern, Frenkel said.

Nonetheless, the somewhat rosy economic outlook was also reason to be concerned. Frenkel argued the main challenge was to ensure improving economies worldwide "grounded" their growth by building on real investment activities and not just by increasing debt.

"Because increasing debt is based on the assumption that you will be able to pay it, that you may be able to refinance it, that interest rates will stay low and all of these assumptions need to be tested."

Global debt levels skyrocketed to a record high of $233 trillion in the third quarter of 2017, according to the Institute of International Finance. The Washington D.C.-based financial industry body said at the start of 2018 that total debt had risen by $16 trillion in the third quarter when compared to year-end of 2016.

Pressing Issues

There are pressing issues that the WEF is tackling in this year’s version at Davos 2018.

The issues will revolve around: 1- digital economy; 2- energy systems; 3- global markets in a fractured world; 4- next financial crisis; 5- technology we trust?; 6- reconnecting refugees; 7- future of governance in the Arab world.

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