Takeaways From Davos 2018: When It Comes to Cybersecurity, We Are All in This Together

It was my privilege last week to participate in the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland. It is always a great opportunity and learning experience to interact with influential leaders from across the globe, representing private industry, government, academia and the arts.

At Davos, I’ve seen a steady progression in the awareness of cybersecurity as an issue of the highest priority. It’s not simply that attendees are more cognizant of the threat environment – although that is certainly the case. It’s that they are more committed to the idea that we must take action, individually and collectively, whatever field we are in, whatever role we have. When it comes to cybersecurity, we are all in this together, which aptly reflected this year’s theme of “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.”

So, what were some of the big issues people were talking about? Here are a few that kept recurring:

  • Board members can no longer just sit on the sidelines. They have too much responsibility and too much liability. The board must engage with executive management and technical staff, set priorities, and ensure that cybersecurity protections are being applied in a consistent and thoughtful manner.
  • Education and training are critical. There is a greater awareness that cybersecurity is a long-term issue that isn’t going away. So, we have to address it at all levels – people, processes and technology. In many ways, that starts with education and training, which includes comprehensive cyber education for our children and training for our workforce, including job reskilling programs.
  • We must leverage technology innovation. One of the points I try to make is that we must bring software to a software fight. It is essential that we take advantage of innovations such as automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning to become more predictive and proactive in our approach to cybersecurity.

Each of these topics was top of mind in a panel in which I participated. The discussion was hosted by Bloomberg, and the topic was “An Integrated Approach to Digital Security.” I was in highly selective company: My fellow panelists were Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, and Dame Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyd’s of London.

Prior to our panel discussion, CA Technologies CEO Michael P. Gregoire gave an interview in which he talked about how he is leading an initiative among World Economic Forum CEOs from the IT sector to help offer reskilling for workers. He also discussed how CA Technologies is working to better secure the ecosystem through such processes as “secure by design” software, which is fundamentally less susceptible to vulnerabilities.

Ms. Beale noted that Lloyd’s works with its customers to achieve a base level of cybersecurity before it agrees to insure them. Among important considerations are whether and how often the board discusses cybersecurity. Mr. Sorrell said sharing information is essential to cybersecurity, adding that he is hopeful organizations will cooperate to an even greater degree in the future.

Mr. Sorrell described cybersecurity as an “existential risk,” which is prescient and true. That is why we must put all of our resources and energies toward ensuring that cybersecurity does not prevent us from “creating a shared future in a fractured world.”

One of my biggest takeaways from Davos was the passion and commitment shown by leaders around the world in addressing cybersecurity as a problem that must be addressed and solved with a high degree of urgency. It is one of the reasons I walked away from Davos with my sense of optimism preserved and revitalized and why I’m already looking forward to returning next year to discuss the progress we continue to make.