(Bloomberg) -- The threat of large-scale cyberattacks and a “deteriorating geopolitical landscape” since the election of U.S. President Donald Trump have jumped to the top of the global elite’s list of concerns, the World Economic Forum said ahead of its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
The growing cyber-dependency of governments and companies, and the associated risks of hacking by criminals or hostile states, has replaced social polarization as a main threat to stability over the next decade, according to the WEF’s yearly assessment of global risks, published Wednesday at Bloomberg LP’s new European headquarters in London. The Davos forum starts Jan. 23 in the Swiss ski resort.
While the economic outlook has improved, nine in 10 of those surveyed said they expect political or trade clashes between major powers to worsen. Some 80 percent saw an increased chance of war.
“Cybersecurity is the issue most on the minds of boards and executives, given the visibility of state-sponsored attacks in an environment of increasing geopolitical friction,” John Drzik, president of global risk and digital at Marsh, which contributed to the study, said in an interview. As companies “invest in things like artificial intelligence, they are widening their attack surface.”
Drzik said recent high-profile security breaches that have fueled this perception include the WannaCry ransomware attack, which infected more than 300,000 computers across 150 countries, and NotPetya, which caused two companies losses in excess of $300 million. The cost of cyber-crime to firms over the next five years could reach $8 trillion, the WEF said.
Similarly, thousands of attacks every month on critical infrastructure from European aviation systems to U.S. nuclear power stations show state-sponsored hackers are attempting to “trigger a breakdown in the systems that keep societies functioning,” the WEF said.