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Cyber Risk is Top Five Global Risk According to World Economic Forum

The democratization of information can have volatile and unpredictable consequences, which was reflected by the riots provoked by an anti-Islam film on YouTube.

The rapid spread of false information, or "digital wildfires" as the report calls it, is one of a series of newly emerging risks identified by the WEF in its Global Risks 2013 report, which surveyed 1,000 experts and business leaders. “Social media allows information to spread around the world at breakneck speed in an open system where norms and rules are starting to emerge but have not yet been defined” said the WEF.

The spread of misinformation has the potential to spark panic selling of shares, or panic evacuations, the WEF claimed in an analysis of the most serious risks facing the global economy. “It’s important to target intervention and mitigation”, said David Cole, group chief risk officer at Swiss Re.

Lee Howell, the report’s overall editor, argued that cyber risk had not dropped off of the report’s radar. “It’s still within the top five risks, and while the risks may not have changed, the likelihood and impact of those risks has become more severe.”

According to the report, there have been several incidents over the past 12 months, where false information transmitted on the internet, or by text message, has had serious consequence.

As Hurricane Sandy batthered New York in October 2012, an anonymous Twitter user tweeted that the New York Stock Exchange Trading Floor was flooded by three feet of water. The false tumour was reported on CNN.

The report identified widening wealth gaps, chronic fiscal imbalances, and the failure to adapt to climate change as the three most prevalent risks to the global economy over the next 10 years. “These global risks are essentially a health warning regarding our most critical systems. National resilience to global risks needs to be a priority so that critical systems need to function”, said Lee Howell.

Other emerging risks include the threat of simultaneous economic and environmental shocks, and the risks of viruses and bacteria becoming immune to antibiotics.

 

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