Crimes in cyberspace, by one estimate, now cost the global economy $445 billion a year. Cyber insecurity is now a global risk no different from the warming climate or forced displacement. Is such insecurity a business risk or a “public bad”? If the security of digital infrastructure is viewed as a business risk, who should mitigate it? Should states be responsible for the integrity of networks and data within their territories, failing which they will be classified as “risky” to do business in in the digital economy? Were cyber insecurity treated as a “public bad”, governments could justifiably conclude that vulnerabilities in one device or platform affect an entire ecosystem, and create a liability regime that shifts the burden on the private sector.
These issues are important to ponder as the Digital India programme and demonetisation encourage the rapid adoption of digital payments technologies. It is not only difficult to assess the “risk” of transacting in the digital economy, but also determine who such risks should be absorbed by. For instance, a high-end device may be able to offer security on the back of its tightly controlled supply chain, but what if an end user, by opening the door to a hidden exploit, compromised its operating system?
Three crucial trends will decisively influence the future of cyber security — the centralisation of data, the arrival of connected devices, and the rapid adoption of digital payments technologies. Centralised control over data can make access to databases easier and more vulnerable to attacks. The Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem is set to explode, with more than 24 billion devices expected to be connected to the internet by 2019. The sheer scale, size and diversity of the IoT environment makes risk difficult to measure.
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