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Cyber attacks on governments and businesses are now one of the top five risks in the world, a new report said.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) report entitled, “Global Risks for 2012,” examined 50 global risks in the areas of the economy and the environment and in geopolitics, society and technology. Researchers conducted interviews with more than 460 experts from industry, government and specialist areas.

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Cyber attacks ranked fourth on the list of Top 5 Global Risks, the WEF report said.

Severe income disparity was number one, second was chronic fiscal imbalances and concern about rising greenhouse gas emissions was third. Fifth on the list was the water supply crises.

Cyber Security

Experts said they were most afraid of cyber attacks that might spark malfunctions in power plants, water supplies and other critical systems, but added the likelihood of this was still relatively low.

Steve Wilson, chief risk officer for general insurance at Zurich, who contributed to the report, said the biggest concern for the WEF was the complexity of Internet security.

The report, which looks at the next 10 years in terms of risk, points out that due to the speed of technological developments, it is difficult to keep up with security.

“A healthy digital space is needed to ensure stability in the world economy and balance of power” and calls for investment into the exploration of digital vulnerabilities, the report said.

The UK government started already with its Cyber Security Strategy published at the end of 2011.

The strategy announced in November, outlined how the government intends to spend $1 billion (£650 million) earmarked for cyber security and introduced a Cyber Crime Unit, which the government wants to set up by 2013.

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