Practice and policy ensure a safer digital economy, says MIT Technology Review Insights’ new global cyber defense ranking
Produced by MIT Technology Review Insights in association with Code42, the Cyber Defense Index 2022/23 (CDI) is the first annual comparative ranking of the world’s 20 largest and most digitally forward economies on their preparation against, and response and recovery from, cybersecurity threat. Countries are rated according to how well institutions have adopted technology and digital practices to be resilient against cyberattacks, and how well policy frameworks promote cybersecure digital transactions.
Based on qualitative and quantitative research conducted between April 2022 and September 2022, the interactive Index shows which countries are building the best cyber defense environments.
The key findings of the report are as follows:
- Australia’s first-place score reflects its efforts to make robust digital infrastructure widely available. The Australian government is applying digital tools and regulatory frameworks to safeguard personal data and digital transactions. It committed to an overhaul of cybersecurity laws, pledging to shelve a previous roadmap. Public urgency rose after the recent hack of Optus, the country’s second-largest mobile carrier, in which 2.8 million records were stolen. CDI analysis shows widespread confidence among business leaders in Australia around the government’s cybersecurity stance.
- The Netherlands, in second place, has evolved into a nerve center for pan-European cybersecurity efforts. The Netherlands ranks high in cybersecurity resources, with comprehensive approaches to data privacy and well-coordinated domestic agencies. Like most top-ranked CDI countries, it benefits from the EU’s consumer-friendly digital rights policy posture, expressed by the 2018 General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) framework.
- Geopolitics accounts for the high CDI rankings of South Korea (third place) and Poland (sixth place). Both economies border some of the world’s most notorious safe harbors for cyber malfeasance, Russia and North Korea, and suffer from their implicit and explicit support for bad actors. Governments and industry cybersecurity decision makers in Poland and South Korea are forced to increase vigilance.
- China leads on several indicators (second place for organizational capacity), but overall ranks in the bottom 10. China’s advantages lie in the capabilities of its digital workers, and the high strategic importance cybersecurity holds for its business leaders. Its overall score is dragged down by its relatively poor (and poorly regarded) infrastructure resilience, and its less-than-inclusive policy environment.
- Germany, in the bottom quarter of the index, scored the lowest of any EU nation. Germany has one of Europe’s lowest e-participation scores, in part due to low adoption within its small-to-medium-sized enterprises, with slow digital service delivery and lack of workforce talent. This colors the perspective of German cybersecurity leaders, who rated themselves poorly on five out of seven confidence indicators.
- India, despite a digitally forward government and the world’s largest (and arguably, most cybersecurity-aware) IT-enabled service sectors, suffers across the board. The powerful tech country lacks critical infrastructure, has poor adoption in its national digital economy, and has weak cybersecurity regulation. Despite escalating cyberattacks and calls for a national cybersecurity law and a dedicated ministry, India has not opted for these advancements.
- EU countries benefit from EU cybersecurity policy, driven by the 2018 GDPR framework. The GDPR, which favors the rights of digital consumers, is a model for the top half of the DCI rankings, including Poland and France (sixth and eighth) and the UK and Switzerland (seventh and 10th). It also shapes policy for non-EU countries with large pan-European footprints in the financial services and insurance sectors, which must follow GDPR principles to operate there.
- Developing countries struggle to gain ground, due to lack of knowledge and resources. While countries among the CDI top 10 score closely together—less than one point divides first-place Australia and ninth-place Japan—countries near the bottom scored more diversely. The common theme for lower scores is access to investment to upgrade infrastructure. Many cybersecurity advances lean on 5G technology, which calls for significant investment for many of these economies. Countries with 5G already in place have a vast advantage.