The IT industry is ever-changing and that is even truer in the context of cyber security. It’s therefore difficult to predict how things might look in just a few months, let alone a few years time. However, there are some things that we can predict from trends in the industry such as the move to cloud and mobile device usage.
So, let’s take a look in our crystal ball, tip out our tea leaves and try to see into the future of cyber security.
One of the things that has happened in recent years is the rapid growth in numbers of Internet of Things devices. Everything from your fitness tracker to your TV and your fridge can now be online. This means that cyber security has moved beyond computers and smartphones and now encompasses a whole range of other devices.
We’ve already seen what can happen where poorly secured IoT devices have been recruited into botnets to launch attacks. This has happened because many of these devices have been built without very much thought being given to making them secure. As the number of these devices grows, we’re likely to see a whole sub-sector of the industry spring up around keeping them secure and ensuring that they don’t allow backdoor access to home and business networks.
Another area of new technology that will have an influence on the security landscape is the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning. The ability of these technologies to extract useful information from large volumes of data is having a major impact in industry and research.
But AI is a double-edged sword. It’s being used by security firms to spot the patterns that can indicate a cyber attack. AI can be used to weed out false positives and allow analysts to concentrate on real threats, thus making the role of security professionals a more fulfilling one. This means that it can help to address the skills gap in cyber security too. But it’s equally certain that it will be used by cyber criminals in attempts to circumvent defences.
Where nation state actors are concerned, we are likely to see more and better technology used to probe and attack infrastructure and democratic processes. Will this lead to a machine versus machine cyber war? It’s too early to tell but you wouldn’t bet against it.
Encryption is already widely used to protect sensitive transactions and data. In an increasingly hostile cyber world, we’re likely to see encryption become the norm for storing and transmitting information.
This is a challenge because while it protects stolen data, it also makes life difficult for law enforcement agencies to track criminal activity. Politicians often make calls for backdoors to be added to encryption systems but this is short-sighted as the risks to the whole fabric of secure online transactions are too great.
As developments in quantum computing continue to gain pace, today’s encryption systems may become inadequate anyway. The power of quantum computers will make many of the techniques we currently use relatively easy to crack. This means that quantum processing will also be needed to create secure encryption systems and keep data safe.
Up to now, blockchain has largely been associated with cryptocurrency but in future, we’re going to see it used in many other areas. The technology has the potential to make banking and commercial transactions far more secure. Blockchain works by referencing each transaction to the earlier ones in the chain so that it’s easy to detect if information has been tampered with.
Here again, more powerful quantum computers are set to make the technology easier to use in mainstream applications. In a few years, we are likely to see blockchain becoming the norm for most types of transaction. This, in turn, will give rise to automatic contracts that trigger payments, for example, at the appropriate stages of a project.