As you start reading this article, you are most likely doing so on a laptop, a tablet, or your phone. That’s great because it means you are already in cyberspace, and that’s what I want to talk about.
We take our devices for granted. We keep them close, and stare at them for hours every day. We use them to work, play, learn, and connect with friends and colleagues at home and around the world. We are now “always on,” an unimaginable shift for humankind.
But do we really consider that when we are fully immersed in cyberspace, we are also in a place where cybersecurity—protecting ourselves, corporations, and governments from harm—has shot to the top of the global economic and political agenda?
It is of utmost concern that cybercrime is increasing at an unprecedented rate. While quantification estimates vary, one of the sector’s leading commentators, Cybersecurity Ventures, has predicted that the global cost of cybercrime in 2023 will surpass $8 trillion. To put that into context, if cybercrime was a country, it would have the third-largest GDP in the world behind the U.S. and China.
Rapid exponential growth is forecasted, growing in total by nearly 70% from $5.7 trillion to $13.82 trillion between 2023 and 2028.
Faced with such an existential crisis, the global cybersecurity community is increasingly finding ways to work more closely together. Forging collaborative and long-term cross-border relationships to protect individuals, companies, and public-sector organizations as our world becomes more connected and more cyber-dependent than ever and therefore more exposed.
We see growing awareness of the need to factor the human into the cyber equation. Cybersecurity protects your data, systems, and devices. It does not, however, protect what it is to be human online. I am one of the founding members of the emerging international online safety technology sector known as Safety Tech. Our vision is to deliver solutions to tech-facilitated problems as well as harmful and criminal behaviors.
Increasingly, I am working with like-minded individuals to explore cybersecurity and cyber safety issues, discuss innovative solutions and expand our knowledge boundaries at conferences, workshops, and events all over the world. Cyberspace is a shared space; we need a shared global vision.
There are some incredibly brilliant, committed, and passionate individuals in the cyberspace community. It essential that they have active forums to share their cutting-edge expertise and demonstrate thought leadership, helping to integrate cybersecurity and cyber safety stakeholders into a single, global community.
Only by working closer together (with direct collaboration among government entities, private-sector bodies, and representatives of intergovernmental bodies and NGOs) can we collectively work toward creating a safer, secure, and more inclusive cyberspace for all.
This is where the Global Cybersecurity Forum (GCF) Institute, created in June of this year, has such an important role to play, following on from the first GCF event in 2020.
This institute will be a catalyst for the exchange of ideas, driving thought leadership and developing research to inform global policy solutions and action. In addition, it will also facilitate international projects and partnerships to strengthen existing efforts on key initiatives.
The forum attracts the leaders of the global cybersecurity community every year, with over 9,000 participants. I have seen for myself, as a speaker and participant, the impact it continues to have.
As I sit here in the hotel lobby in Riyadh, watching scores of delegates enthusiastically arrive for GCF 2023, I am certain of one thing: It is only through collaborative events like this that we really understand and act upon the implications of a digital future and lay the foundations of an enhanced cyberspace for future generations.
While events like this are vital to understand the macro implications, it is true that sometimes our excitement about technology, and the internet specifically, has prevented us from seeing the bigger picture; in many ways our society has become utterly dependent on a utility that it doesn’t really understand.
Children are now growing in the powerful and psychologically immersive environment of cyberspace—mostly unsupervised and exposed to risks and harm. Transfixed by our devices, we are all distracted, and less and less present. Those of us who remember the world and life before the internet are a vital resource. We know what we used to have, who we used to be, and what our values were. We are the ones who can rise to the responsibility of directing and advising on the cyberspace adventure ahead.
We are living through an exciting moment in history, when so much about life on earth is being transformed, from generative AI to the metaverse. But what is new is not always good—and technology will only mean progress when we can mitigate its harmful effects.
Therefore, we must take greater responsibility for securing our collective cyber future. Those of us working in the global cyberspace community must continue our progressive journey of partnership, ensuring we foster enriching experiences, promote research, innovate solutions, encourage cyber leadership, and develop shared goals to build the future we all want for today and tomorrow—in the real world and in cyberspace.
Dr. Mary Aiken is a professor and chair of the department of cyberpsychology at Capitol Technology University in Washington, D.C. Fortune is a media partner of the Global Cybersecurity Forum.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com