Security Advisor

Report: Cyber Attacks May Cause 'Widespread Harm' by 2025

Experts weigh in on how they see security and cultural trends related to the Internet going in the next decade.

A new research project by the Pew Institute found that some security experts believe that there will be a major attack that results in the death of individuals in the next 10 years.

The report, titled "Digital Life in 2015," was commissioned to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, and looked at how many see the Internet and technology evolving over the next few years.

In the survey, 61 percent of the 1,642  who responded (most from the field of academia) thought there would be a cyber incident  by 2025 that will cause "widespread harm" ("widespread harm" in the context of the report included the loss of life, property damage and/or billions lost in theft).

Along with surveying respondents with a uniform questionnaire, the Pew Institute compiled free-form commentary from experts on what the security landscape will look like over the next decade. Thomas Lenzo, a technology consultant, discussed one possible scenario in which a large-scale breach could lead to the loss of human life. "As for loss of life, we will see that when a major health care system or a SCADA [Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition] system is the victim of a cyber attack."

While many did say they believed that incidents will cause "widespread harm," a majority of respondents said that the loss of life element would arise either indirectly from the attack and would be extremely rare. "I'd like to believe that cyber attacks would be more likely to cause property and national security breaches than loss of life, and that they're more likely to occur in less developed nations, or regions experiencing conflict or warfare," wrote Meg Houston Maker, private consultant and editorial strategist. "However, it seems clear that messing with the national grid during times of extreme weather events or hacking the public transportation system could pose a vital threat."

Along with traditional cyber attacks and breaches, the growth of Big Data will provide one of the  biggest challenges due to privacy concerns, according to one anonymous PhD candidate in educational technology. "Personal/big data will be an increasing concern as large datasets about each person will be easier and easier to generate, track, and maintain. Furthermore, keeping this data secure will be perhaps the most important issue in technology and society in general."

The report is an interesting look at many facets of how technology will become further intertwined with our daily lives moving forward, and looks to predict both the struggles and advantages that come with it.

What's your take? How do you see the cyber security landscape playing out in 2025? Share your comments below.

About the Author

Chris Paoli is the site producer for and


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