A necessity for the sustainability of society

Harris Marley
Harris Marley

Global Courant
Picture: Fornitet

At first glance, cybersecurity and sustainability may seem like two separate topics. From a business perspective, there are considerable benefits to having a robust cybersecurity strategy in place, particularly when it comes to ensuring the sustainability and longevity of a company. But the links between cybersecurity and sustainability go much deeper. Cybersecurity is a necessary condition to ensure a safe and sustainable future for everyone.

Digital economy and interconnected society

Digitising every aspect of our society, accelerated by the pandemic, enables people to interact with their world, friends and family, work, entertainment, shopping, banking, and more­, in ways that were never possible. Public and private organisations worldwide, even those initially most critical of digitisation, have been quick to recognise the benefits of an interconnected society and accelerated their digital transformation efforts to provide even more services to their citizens, employees, and customers.

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Smart cities provide interconnected power grids, water supply networks, sanitation, lighting, traffic management, and essential services like police and fire to make our towns and cities more efficient, more sustainable, and healthier places to live. Smart buildings include connected physical access, heating and air conditioning, intelligent energy conservation, and safety and security systems. Smart transportation systems allow smart cars to connect to transportation grids to better manage traffic and improve the safety of drivers. They also coordinate the growing volume of goods being shipped locally and globally. And they help people move safely and quickly around their neighbourhoods or across the world. E-health services are helping improve the efficiency of home care for the sick and elderly and those who live or work in remote locations. Mobile applications and smart monitors remind patients to take their medications or measure their pulse or blood pressure. Doctors can use video and data streaming to evaluate and provide care for remote individuals. And AI-assisted technologies enable safer and more effective medical procedures, including surgery. Smart devices connect us to news, information, entertainment, and social media. They provide essential information, allow us to interact with and record the world around us, provide real-time information about everything from our health to our schedules, simplify communicating with others, and enable us to manage financial and other transactions with the press of a button or a word to a virtual assistant. Smart homes optimise energy consumption, provide intuitive entertainment, and adjust climate and security systems to ensure families’ health, safety, and comfort. Smart businesses can provide more personalised services to customers, manage inventories, distribute resources and data closer to points of access, connect workers to resources, and enable employees and contractors to remain productive while working remotely. Connected critical infrastructures can be more responsive to demands, adapt to changing environments, and reroute essential services to minimise disruption.

These examples illustrate how digital has become embedded in every aspect of our lives: professional, personal, and social. And this is just the start. These systems will continue to become more sophisticated, easier to use, and increasingly interconnected.

A lack of cybersecurity puts society at risk

Today, nearly every operation in our society and economy now depends on these digital infrastructures, including energy, water systems, transportation, shipping, agriculture, telecommunications, healthcare, food, banking and finance, government, shopping, entertainment, and emergency services across public and private sectors.

When a cyberattack targets these critical infrastructures, it can also significantly and severely impact national security, the economy, individual safety and privacy, and business stability and continuity. Recent events, such as the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, North Korean state-sponsored espionage on U.S. energy providers, and the SolarWinds hack, are just a few examples of how disruptive the consequences of a cyberattack can be to the critical infrastructures we rely on.

Without cybersecurity, the sustainability of our modern, digitalised society is at risk, whether for individuals, communities, businesses, nations, and even the global economy. This is what Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, warned of when he opened the Cyber Polygon 2021 conference. He said, “The implication is clear: a lack of cybersecurity has become a clear and immediate danger to our society worldwide.” And more recently, widespread cybercrime and cyber insecurity appeared in this year’s World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2023, ranking #8 in terms of likelihood and impact, alongside such risks as failure to mitigate climate change, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, and erosion of social cohesion.

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Cybersecurity has traditionally been treated as a technology issue. However, living in a digitised world where nearly all of the critical infrastructure and services are connected to the internet means cybersecurity has become a fundamental element to the sustainability of our society today and in the future. That’s why cybersecurity, like climate change, gender equality, diversity, and business ethics, must be part of every company’s sustainability initiative. Every organisation must put the proper measures, processes, and governance in place to ensure that the digital world we all rely on is safe, reliable, and sustainable.

A necessity for the sustainability of society

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