Cybersecurity, A Necessity for the Sustainability of Society

Cybersecurity, A Necessity for the Sustainability of Society

Posted by HSSL Technologies on Aug 16th 2023

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

Digitizing 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 organizations worldwide—even those initially most critical of digitization—have been quick to recognize the benefits of an interconnected society and accelerated their digital transformation efforts to provide even more services to their citizens, employees, and customers:

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 neighborhoods 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 medication 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 optimize energy consumption, provide intuitive entertainment, and adjust climate and security systems to ensure families' health, safety, and comfort.
Smart businesses can provide more personalized 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 minimize disruption.

All 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 US 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, digitalized 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.
The Vital Role Cybersecurity Plays in Today’s Digital Society

In today’s digital world, cybersecurity is vital for protecting and maintaining the foundational elements of our society, including national security, maintaining digital privacy, protecting individuals, enabling business resiliency, and ensuring digital trust.
Cybersecurity is a condition of national security

The vitality of today’s societies and national economies depends on secure cyberspace. Cyberwar, cyber espionage, hacktivism, and cyberterrorism all affect national security. Ensuring the safety and resiliency of society against hacktivists, nation-states, cyber threat actors, and cybercriminal organizations is paramount. Cybersecurity plays a critical role in political stability, protection from physical harm due to compromised critical infrastructures, and economic health. Proper cybersecurity systems enhance respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, trust in institutions, and an equitable society. And all of this is at stake in the event of a successful attack on a nation’s cyberinfrastructure.
Cybersecurity is a condition of digital privacy

Privacy is a human right. But in today’s digital society, where the world is at our fingertips, the price of that convenience often includes sharing personal information. So, while digitization offers tremendous potential for innovation and improving our lives, it cannot come at the cost of compromised digital privacy. Ensuring everyone can benefit from these advances, innovations, and conveniences while protecting privacy is critical to our success as a society.

Cybercriminals who steal private and sensitive information, such as financial, medical, and employment records or government-issued information, can expose and disrupt the lives of individuals. This disruption can take months or years to recover from.
Cybersecurity is a condition of protecting individuals

Our society depends on safe transportation, clean water, and air, safe food and medicine, and resources supplied by manufacturers that also carry risks, such as oil and gas, energy, and chemicals. These industries are not just essential; they are also connected to our digital infrastructure. Disruptions to these critical systems, like sanitation and clean water, or the compromise of safety measures at industrial facilities due to a cyberattack can endanger people’s lives.
Cybersecurity is a condition of business resiliency

Attacks such as ransomware or malware targeting organizations have significant disruptive potential. They don’t just cause severe damage to businesses, affecting financial viability, brand and reputation, and consumer trust. They also impact the customers and consumers who rely on those organizations.

In PwC’s August 2022 Pulse Survey, business executives and board members identified cyberattacks as their number one business risk. And according to top officials of the Biden administration, more frequent cyberattacks are now part of the ‘new normal’ for US companies and individuals. It's no longer a question of whether you will fall victim to a cyberattack but when.

Given the potential impact of cyberattacks on business resiliency, organizations must have clear oversight, processes, and procedures in place for cybersecurity. Those who implement good governance on cybersecurity, using appropriate governance, tools, and processes, will be more resilient and sustainable.
Cybersecurity is a condition of digital trust

Trust is an essential element of every transaction, from buying goods and services online to international diplomacy. Digital trust is the expectation that digital technologies and the organizations providing them will protect stakeholder interests and uphold societal expectations and values. But with the rapid evolution of digital technology and tools, trust can be undermined—whether through common phishing attacks, where attackers masquerade as a person or organization you know and trust to deliver malware, to the recent rise in sophisticated deepfakes. Forecasts suggest this new threat will escalate, with some researchers predicting that “as much as 90% of online content may be synthetically generated by 2026.”

Often used to conduct social engineering attacks, deepfakes—like other forms of digital deception—erode trust in digital technology and threaten society. Deepfakes can potentially undermine election outcomes, impact social stability, and even compromise national security, particularly in disinformation campaigns. In some instances, deepfakes have been used to manipulate public opinion or spread fake news leading to distrust and confusion among the public. An example of deepfake crime includes creating phony audio or video messages from CEOs or high-ranking company executives and using voice and image-altering software to impersonate them. These manipulated messages often contain urgent requests for the recipient to transfer money, disclose sensitive information, or make false claims, leading to public backlash and significant loss.

The most effective way to mitigate these threats is to increase awareness of the problem and educate all individuals—kids, parents, teachers, workforce—on these dangers and how to spot them. This way, we can reduce the impact of these malicious campaigns and build a safe internet together.

Cybersecurity has traditionally been treated as a technology issue. To protect themselves against the ever-increasing number and sophistication of cyberattacks, companies have had to equip themselves with advanced technologies to prevent their data, intellectual and physical property, and confidential information from being stolen. However, living in a digitized 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 organization 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.