UN chief warns of rising cybersecurity incidents and malicious use of digital technology

UN chief warns of rising cybersecurity incidents and malicious use of digital technology

The UN secretary general warned on Thursday that "the perils of weaponising digital technologies are growing by the year".

"The misuse of digital technology is becoming more sophisticated and stealthy, malware, wipers and trojans are proliferating” and cyber operations enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) are multiplying the threat, António Guterres added.

He also warned the UN Security Council that “quantum computing could break down entire systems with its ability to breach encryption".

But Guterres said that digital technology advances are also "revolutionising" society, not only bringing people together but also delivering information and enabling citizens to access government services.

But instant connectivity that powers enormous benefits is leaving people, institutions and governments vulnerable, he said.

Guterres said cybersecurity incidents have become “disturbingly common” from disruptions to health, banking and telecommunications services to “relentless illicit activity” including by criminal organisations and so-called “cyber-mercenaries.”

The secretary-general also pointed to “a legion of hate merchants littering the information superhighway with fear and division” and the increasing use of cyberspace as a weapon in conflicts.

"And the growing integration of digital tools with weapon systems, including autonomous systems, presents new vulnerabilities," he said.

Guterres said software vulnerabilities are being exploited and ways to achieve this are even being sold on the Internet.

“Malicious activity that undermines public institutions, electoral processes and online integrity erodes trust, fuels tensions, and even sows the seeds of violence and conflict,” he said.

Guterres has been calling for global efforts to ensure that cyberspace and AI are regulated.

He has invited UN members to a summit amid the General Assembly in September.