Reflecting on Davos: Responsible Leadership and Automation

Jan 24, 2017
3 minutes

Over the past week at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, I was fortunate enough to meet and participate in sessions with numerous leaders from business, government and academia from all over the world. As I mentioned in my last post, this year’s meeting focused on “Responsive and Responsible Leadership,” which I noticed took shape around two major themes: the promise of artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, and building and maintaining trust in these technologies.

AI and automation are poised to potentially upend industries; the research and development, and advancements, are staggering. While the stories of the application of AI are impressive, as one Davos participant noted, “We’re on the first rung of this ladder.” In the context of cybersecurity, we have long advocated for the need to have as automated an approach as possible to preventing breaches, and we are starting to see the transformative impact of automation on our industry, driving increasingly positive outcomes for organizations. The future of the digital age, from a technological perspective, is bright, so long as secure innovation continues.

However, the promise of a bright future is entirely contingent on trust in these technologies and the organizations that operate them. Consistently during discussions at Davos, it was clear that cybersecurity is being viewed at the most senior levels as a fundamental enabler of the innovations that hold great promise to improve health, productivity and communication for individuals and organizations everywhere.

What, then, does responsible leadership for cybersecurity look like? In my view, it means approaching cybersecurity as a math problem, in which the declining cost of compute power and commoditization of attack tools have made attacks cheaper than ever for adversaries. Security postures that focus solely on responding to attacks won’t solve that math problem – what will? Making attacks cost-prohibitive to attackers with automated next-generation technology, improved processes, and the education of people will.

The dialogue in Davos represents an excellent step toward broad recognition that the prevention of successful attacks lies at the heart of establishing and maintaining trust in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and, by extension, the digital age. As a next step, I encourage leaders looking for concrete advice to consult the editions of Navigating the Digital Age, executive-level cybersecurity guides we have put together with experts from a variety of fields for the U.S., U.K., Australia, France, Japan and Singapore, with more to come.

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