Cyber attacks are one of the top five global risks likely to impact the planet over the coming year, according to the latest annual report from the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The international organisation interviewed more than 460 experts from industry, government, academia and civil society to compile its seventh Global Risks report.
The report examined 50 global risks across five categories – economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological – to formulate its conclusions.
It placed cyber attacks fourth on a list of Top 5 Global Risks in Terms of Likelihood. First was 'severe income disparity', followed by 'chronic fiscal imbalances' and 'rising greenhouse emissions'. 'Water supply crises' were judged as fifth most likely to happen.
"It is clear that respondents' concern has shifted from environmental risks in 2011 to socio-economic risks in 2012," the report claimed.
"Economic risks have displaced environmental risks as those considered most likely. In 2011, the risks perceived as having the highest potential impact were economic and environmental; in 2012, they are economic and societal."
The World Economic Forum's recognition of the cyber threat will come as a little too late for many in the information security industry who have been battling state-sponsored hackers and cyber criminals for decades.
However, it does highlight the problem of security vendors talking up the risks of cyber crime and victims tending to do the opposite, and recognises the need for organisations to get a clearer picture of the true levels of risk associated.
"Correcting such information asymmetries should be at the centre of policies to improve global cyber security and to ensure an efficient market," the report notes.
The UK government has already made a start in this area in its Cyber Security Strategy published at the end of 2011.
The documents set out plans for greater information sharing between government and private sector on threats and the creation of "an easy-to-use single point for reporting cyber fraud" to encourage victims to report crime more readily.
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