Threat Horizon 2024 – A global perspective

Threat Horizon 2024 – A global perspective

Dan Norman takes us through the ISF’s last two-year forecast – made in 2022 – to determine how accurate they were, and the measures organisations may need to take.

Every year the ISF provides a detailed, scenario-based, two-year threat forecast to its member organisations – a unique model, whereby the combined intelligence from 500 companies, governments and academics contribute towards what they believe the next few years will bring, and the impact it will have on information security and cyber risk management. Threat scenarios are workshopped, tested and validated globally, and a detailed action-orientated report is provided to the community. However, when we reach the year in question, the ISF provides access to organisations outside of the membership to help them prepare. In 2022, the ISF made bold predictions about the world through the lens of the PESTLE model… 2024 is finally upon us and the research is frighteningly accurate:

Economic Predictions

Despite a mix of rosy forecasts and warnings of economies sleepwalking into recession, the economic outlook in 2024 will be defined by uncertainty due to the pandemic. Organisations must be pragmatic in their responses to shifting economic prospects. Supply chain disruption is expected to continue because of labour and equipment shortages. The interconnected nature of contemporary markets and their associated fragility was exposed in the East by the instability of housing giant Evergrande. The potential time bomb of a Chinese recession would cause global economic, political and social shockwaves.

How accurate was this?

There has been a real power shift in terms of investment from Middle Eastern countries like the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The GCC has seemingly weathered a global recession, with considerable diversification into building GIGA cities, tourism, entertainment and sport. The war in the Middle East and the Russia/Ukraine conflict could continue to tip Europe, the US and Africa into a spiralling recession, with inflation rising globally due to the fragility of supply chains. Geopolitical risk has caused significant economic uncertainty, which governments and banks are continuing to grapple with.

Social Prediction

The long shadow of the pandemic will continue to fall over all aspects of society. Whilst the primary effects, such as loneliness, family separation and undisputed health impacts are well documented secondary effects are brewing. Social disillusionment will be high, and decreasing trust and support of government policies will whip up support for political violence. Ethical considerations will be a driving factor in all aspects of social life. Organisations will face difficulties incorporating differing expectations across generations. To ensure this new approach translates across relationships between technology and people, global spending on data protection and compliance technology is expected to reach $15bn by 2024.

How accurate was this?

There has been tremendous societal disruption from the wars in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, North Eastern Africa and in the South China Sea in terms of physical protests and shifting political opinions. Populist politicians with divisive agendas have gained power in many countries, including Argentina, Italy, and potentially the US once again. Social media platforms are fighting an existential battle for freedom of speech with governments globally, with the major tech billionaires being targeted and fined by governments for the impact they are having on politics and society. The Middle East, however, has significantly raised investment in society. Much of the GCC has a robust vision due for implementation in 2030 – healthcare, education, tourism and entertainment designed to raise quality of life of people in the region, all underpinned by significant investment in technology. This is a major step-change in terms of the risk landscape.

Technological Prediction

Nations will explore deeper into cyber space, competing for technological and scientific supremacy as it becomes a key metric for international power. Beyond Earth, a technological arms race is brewing as the space race shifts from being a matter of national pride to a way to exhibit genuine strategic advantage. For example, private space endeavours will be key to NASA’s plan to return humans to the moon by 2024. As all nations race to establish themselves off-planet, the emergence of low orbital debris will begin to impact further advancements as humans risk trashing a new arena for exploration and exploitation.

How accurate was this?

Technological advancement has not been as dramatic as predicted, in terms of commercial use cases regarding quantum computing. However, technology has played a significant role in the progress of human life. From generative AI and landing spacecraft on moving asteroids, to implanting a chip in the human brain to reintroduce motor function and the use of AI-backed technology is playing a crucial part in society. The ethical and political discussions regarding use cases for technology will differ region by region – and the risks associated with technological supremacy threaten to exacerbate geopolitical ties and existing political structures further.

Legal Predictions

The constant rate of technology change continues to create a game of cat and mouse between innovation and legislation. By 2024, however, technological advancements will have expanded this disparity even more. Governments will extend the scope of legal obligations and constraints affecting how organisations use and process data to protect individual human rights. Having realised the pervasive power of data, there will be a concerted effort for legislative reform that goes beyond data privacy. These efforts will reassess the use of artificial intelligence (AI) techniques and Internet of Things (IoT) devices to reduce the exponential growth of cyber attacks.

How accurate was this?

The legal ramifications of generative AI have caused a media storm – from Hollywood to the World Economic Forum, all walks of society have been (or expect to be) impacted. Governments around the world are working to design AI acts and managing the impact on the job market and beyond. Data privacy regulations continue to be fragmented – with the Middle East paying particular attention to data residency for cloud providers.

Environmental Predictions

By 2024 the world is expected to have breached the 1.5°C limit set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement causing widespread disruption and an alarming loss of biodiversity. Yet, inciting widespread frustration, reform to tackle environmental change will remain a political talking point rather than concrete action. Environmental change will become a motivating factor as organisations demonstrate their environmentally safe behaviours to appease customers and to remain attractive to investors. As extreme weather events increase, it will become essential to ensure that the potential for environmental disaster is woven into organisational strategy.

How accurate was this?

The environmental disasters that have happened worldwide have been catastrophic. From wildfires in Central Europe, to hurricanes and monsoons across Asia and the US. The damage is arguably irreversible. We accurately predicted that nation states would communicate a lot, but act little. The COP28 climate conference achieved little, but none of the GCC committed to reducing oil and gas outputs. However, many organisations are focusing on reducing their carbon footprint by restricting travel. Environmental protesters are becoming a significant nuisance globally, disrupting supply chains and using cyber attacks as a mechanism to affect target companies. Access the full report and recommended actions to find out more.