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Microsoft's legal chief: There are two cyber attack trends that "continue to intensify"

Lianna Brinded
Head of Yahoo Finance UK
Bradford L. Smith, President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft. Photo: WEF

Cyber attacks are one of the biggest threats to businesses, economies, and societies around the world.

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), attacks against businesses have almost doubled in five years and the costs are rising too. For example, “some of the largest costs in 2017 related to ransomware attacks, which accounted for 64% of all malicious emails.”

“Notable examples included the WannaCry attack—which affected 300,000 computers across 150 countries — and NotPetya, which caused quarterly losses of $300m for a number of affected businesses,” it added.

In a panel called A New Architecture for Cyber-Cooperation at the WEF in Davos, Switzerland, Samir Saran, president of the independent thinktank Observer Research Foundation (ORF) outlined how “all of us are trying to respond to the digital dilemma.”

“How do you grow the digital economy? How do you unsure personal rights and safety? And how do you ensure national security is not a victim of either of the other two?,” he said.

The panel included Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer, Microsoft. He outlined the “two trends over the last five years that have continued to intensify.”

“It’s all about keeping the world safe. The world depends on digital infrastructure and people depend on their digital devices and what we’ve found is that these digital devices are under attack every single day,” said Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer, Microsoft.

The first biggest threat, he says, is that attacks by organised criminal enterprises are becoming “more prolific and more sophisticated”, often “operating in jurisdictions that are more difficult to reach through the rule of law but use the internet to seek out victims literally everywhere.”

Smith says that the second biggest issue is the “increase in nation state attacks. On certain days, acting on a global basis … May 2017 there was the Wannacry attack launched by North Korea — it impacted over 150 nations in a single day.”

WEF’s Global Risks Report 2019 showed that cybersecurity risks are one of the most disruptive problems for global business.

In order to solve these issues there is “no single bullet,” Smith said. “What we are trying to do is take a multi-faceted approach.

“It starts with tech companies which create this technology, that have a responsibility to really keep people safe. You see across the tech sector a number of different companies constantly strengthening their security defences and constantly offering more security defences to customers.

“But the industry has found that we really need to act together, not just separately. 2018 was a really important year because Siemens sponsored and launched a charter of trust and Microsoft launched the tech accord. We need governments to do more as well.”