Cyber breaches have doubled in five years, says Zurich report
Zurich’s Global Risks Report for 2018 has highlighted the increasing threat businesses have to contend with in the field of cyber security.
According to the report, cyber breaches recorded by companies have doubled since 2012 from 68 per business to 130 per business in 2017, with ‘dark net’ markets for malware goods and services having undergone a resurgence.
The proliferation of cloud services being used by companies has also further exposed them to risk, with the report counting Internet of Things (IoT) devices globally at 8.4bn, which exceeds the global population of 7.6bn. By 2020, that number is expected to reach 20.4bn.
Businesses are committing more and more capital to preventing cyber attacks, with 254 companies surveyed last year putting aside an average annual firefighting sum of £11.7mn. $8trn is expected to be spent collectively on stopping attacks around the world over the next five years.
The Global Risk Report, an annual publication by the Swiss insurance group, also investigates the environmental risks that have developed in recent years alongside those associated with cyber security, while too measuring fiscal indicators that suggest potential threats to the global economy.
By reading the report in full here (link below), executives can learn more about risks that could be just around the corner in Zurich’s new ‘Future Shocks’ section, while in ‘Hindsight’ the report looks back at past editions to analyse the evolution of previous risks.
Created in partnership with Marsh & McLennan Companies, the National University of Singapore, Oxford Martin School at Oxford University and Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Centre, University of Pennsylvania, the 2018 report was Zurich’s 13th edition of the Global Risks Report.
Chinese Firm Taigusys Launches Emotion-Recognition System
In a detailed investigative report, the Guardian reported that Chinese tech company Taigusys can now monitor facial expressions. The company claims that it can track fake smiles, chart genuine emotions, and help police curtail security threats. ‘Ordinary people here in China aren’t happy about this technology, but they have no choice. If the police say there have to be cameras in a community, people will just have to live with it’, said Chen Wei, company founder and chairman. ‘There’s always that demand, and we’re here to fulfil it’.
Who Will Use the Data?
As of right now, the emotion-recognition market is supposed to be worth US$36bn by 2023—which hints at rapid global adoption. Taigusys counts Huawei, China Mobile, China Unicom, and PetroChina among its 36 clients, but none of them has yet revealed if they’ve purchased the new AI. In addition, Taigusys will likely implement the technology in Chinese prisons, schools, and nursing homes.
It’s not likely that emotion-recognition AI will stay within the realm of private enterprise. President Xi Jinping has promoted ‘positive energy’ among citizens and intimated that negative expressions are no good for a healthy society. If the Chinese central government continues to gain control over private companies’ tech data, national officials could use emotional data for ideological purposes—and target ‘unhappy’ or ‘suspicious’ citizens.
How Does It Work?
Taigusys’s AI will track facial muscle movements, body motions, and other biometric data to infer how a person is feeling, collecting massive amounts of personal data for machine learning purposes. If an individual displays too much negative emotion, the platform can recommend him or her for what’s termed ‘emotional support’—and what may end up being much worse.
Can We Really Detect Human Emotions?
This is still up for debate, but many critics say no. Psychologists still debate whether human emotions can be separated into basic emotions such as fear, joy, and surprise across cultures or whether something more complex is at stake. Many claim that AI emotion-reading technology is not only unethical but inaccurate since facial expressions don’t necessarily indicate someone’s true emotional state.
In addition, Taigusys’s facial tracking system could promote racial bias. One of the company’s systems classes faces as ‘yellow, white, or black’; another distinguishes between Uyghur and Han Chinese; and sometimes, the technology picks up certain ethnic features better than others.
Is China the Only One?
Not a chance. Other countries have also tried to decode and use emotions. In 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched a heavily contested training programme (SPOT) that taught airport personnel to monitor passengers for signs of stress, deception, and fear. But China as a nation rarely discusses bias, and as a result, its AI-based discrimination could be more dangerous.
‘That Chinese conceptions of race are going to be built into technology and exported to other parts of the world is troubling, particularly since there isn’t the kind of critical discourse [about racism and ethnicity in China] that we’re having in the United States’, said Shazeda Ahmed, an AI researcher at New York University (NYU).
Taigusys’s founder points out, on the other hand, that its system can help prevent tragic violence, citing a 2020 stabbing of 41 people in Guangxi Province. Yet top academics remain unconvinced. As Sandra Wachter, associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, said: ‘[If this continues], we will see a clash with fundamental human rights, such as free expression and the right to privacy’.