Internet and data driven services are the engines of the modern global economy. Consumers and businesses alike depend on the seamless integration and widespread availability of digital infrastructure for routine personal and commercial exchanges across several different platforms and devices, and increasingly across borders. As our global dependence on digital technologies continues to increase, leaders in governments and business must address cybersecurity concerns in order to build on the progress and prosperity that the digital economy has offered to date.
In a study published last year, 200 global CEOs identified cybersecurity as the top near-term threat to the global economy. These concerns come at a time when a greater share of the global economy, our infrastructure, and daily life is being transformed by digitization. For example, Cisco estimates that there will be over 28 billion networked devices by 2022 – over half of which will support various Internet of Things (IoT) applications. In order to usher in the next wave of growth and innovation, connected societies across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and around the world must take steps to ensure that sensitive information is protected from misuse, abuse, and destruction.
At AT&T, cybersecurity and cyber resilience are business imperatives. Our company provides customers around the world with connectivity, technology, entertainment, news, advertising and more in more than 220 countries and territories, including business enterprise services to countries representing over 99 percent of the world’s economy. What’s more, on an average day our global network carries over 335 petabytes of data traffic. Just as the continued growth of data creation around the world seems assured, so too does the constant evolution of the cyber threat landscape. Bad actors are finding ever-more creative and sophisticated ways to exploit digital information for financial or other gain; one recent survey suggests that global cost of cybercrime alone will reach $5.2 billion USD during a five-year window ending in 2023.
In response to rising threats, we are using a suite of technology tools and best practices to safeguard our network, infrastructure, and customer data from malicious activity. For example, today we operate multiple Security Operations Centers (SOCs) that are monitored 24/7, 365 days of the year and provide advance notification of different security events in addition to reports and alerts. We are also preparing our infrastructure to better meet future threats. To that end, our adoption of Software Defined Network (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) will make it possible to shift resources around in near real-time, quarantine data, or limit an attacker’s access to resources. This gives us a more flexible, nimble and resilient response capability across our organization.
In addition to bolstering our internal practices, we place tremendous importance on advancing comprehensive cybersecurity solutions that help companies like ours remain globally competitive, protect intellectual property, and foster a safe digital ecosystem. Industry has a demonstrated history of engaging in effective, multi-stakeholder processes to develop best practices and standards – including on security – for ICT products and services. This model has been used to address challenges from botnets to supply chain security issues, and is today being applied to assess key technologies such as IoT and 5G.
This also necessarily requires that we cooperate with government partners around the world to develop effective and harmonized regulatory frameworks that expand – not restrict – the benefits of the digital economy, while also addressing the need for security. Today’s open environment for digital media, communications, and trade has yielded tremendous benefits to the MENA region and the global economy, which are only expected to multiply as IoT and other emerging technologies such as 5G networks and Artificial Intelligence (AI) mature. Virtually every major global industry stands to benefit from these advances, and none is immune from cyber risk.
Cyber risks extend far beyond the telecommunications and media sectors; industry in general, including other operators of critical infrastructure – is vulnerable to the various threats posed by malicious cyber actors. Against this background, it is important that, as governments seek ways to improve security across the digital economy, they must preserve the ability of organizations that are on the frontlines to determine their unique risk profiles and calibrate their defense efforts accordingly. Prescriptive security practices or government mandates for security features could have the unintended consequence of making companies less agile and less able keep pace with more sophisticated threats. Even as we pursue greater public-private cooperation and global coordination on cybersecurity, leaders must prioritize using voluntary, risk-based approaches that reflect the unique needs of every industry.
No one company – or government – can secure the digital ecosystem alone. As a global leader in technology and innovation, we are proud to work with government and industry partners around the world to build a safe and secure digital ecosystem so that people across the MENA region, and globally, can thrive.
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