Cyber vulnerability is humanity’s Achilles heel

Constantine PassarisThe Greek Scientists Society recently invited me to speak at their inaugural international virtual conference on “Cybersecurity and the New Global Economy of the 21st Century”. Cybersecurity is clearly top of mind these days for individuals, civil society, businesses, financial institutions, and governments at all levels.

The Greek Scientist Society was founded two years ago by Theo Zacharis in the United Kingdom. It serves as the intellectual hub for Greeks of the diaspora as well as their compatriots in Greece and Cyprus. The society’s current membership includes academics, intellectuals, scientists, technologists, industrialists, entrepreneurs, and a myriad of other professionals who are resident on all five continents.

My presentation reminded the audience of the amazing technological innovations at the disposal of civil society, businesses, and governments. Concurrently, we face huge cyber threats that are confronting us daily. In my opinion, cyber vulnerability is humanity’s contemporary Achilles heel.

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The ascent of the new global economy of the 21st century has spotlighted the importance of cybersecurity for social and economic institutions. It has underlined the urgency of confronting cyber threats to protect individuals, civil society, businesses, financial corporations, and governments.

The new global economy of the 21st century has precipitated transformational technological change. Never in human history has the pace of structural change been so rapid and profound. The signature mark of the new economy is new ideas, new technologies, and new directions.

At the same time, cyber insecurity offers the greatest threat to humanity reaping the rewards of the immense strides in technological progress and enjoying the economic benefits from scientific breakthroughs.

The new global economy rests on three pillars:

  1. internetization, a new word and concept that I have introduced to the economics lexicon. It describes the empowerment of the new global economy through global outreach and electronic connectivity. In effect, internetization is globalization on steroids.
  2. trade liberalization, which has enhanced global economic integration and extended the economic architecture and
  3. the Information Technology Revolution, which has made geography and time irrelevant.

All these pillars of the new economy are driven by a virtually borderless world with a tremendous capacity for electronic connectivity.

The first three decades of the 21st century have recorded a cataclysmic trifecta. It started with the global financial crisis of 2008, which adversely affected most financial institutions. That was followed by the protracted Great Recession, which led to a sharp decline in economic growth accompanied by high levels of unemployment. In the third decade, COVID-19 created a global tsunami of economic devastation.

What do all these three cataclysmic events have in common? They are global in character and are driven by digital connectivity. There is no denying that internetization has revolutionized our personal lives and the operation of contemporary businesses. It has redefined the new global ecosystem.

In effect, 95 per cent of our social and economic existence in the 21st century is spent online. As such, we are significantly exposed and vulnerable to cyber-attacks and malfeasance. These disruptive forces trigger increased costs, prevent progress, and diminish the full realization of humanity’s ambitions.

Consequently, cybersecurity has become the dominant conversation of the third decade of the 21st century because malicious cyber intrusions can prevent humanity’s progress in reaping the rewards from the current wave of technological innovations.

Increasingly, the Age of Internetization has precipitated an accelerated speed of constant change and the emergence of enhanced automation, robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and the Internet of Things. The rapid, extensive, and diverse range of electronic innovations is triggering cybersecurity alarms that reveal our high level of exposure to digital risk.

The paradigm for the wealth of nations is no longer confined to the resources under our feet but depends on the brainpower between our ears. As a result, we must embrace internetization as our ally in the progress of humanity, but we must be vigilant against cyber threats, cyber-proof our institutions, and build the appropriate firewalls.

Furthermore, we must launch a new era of collaborative multilateralism among all nations that will purposefully resolve our contemporary economic, social, digital, and environmental hot-button challenges.

Let us, therefore, resolve to embrace the need for urgent action on cybersecurity and create a safer and more resilient pathway toward humanity’s continued progress and prosperity.

Constantine Passaris is a Professor of Economics at the University of New Brunswick and an Affiliate Member of the Canadian Institute of Cybersecurity.

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