#Cybersecurity Predictions for 2016


Picture from sigstr.com.

It’s that time of year! Time to make predictions for the upcoming year, and as I like to do, I like to try and make them in my field – cybersecurity.

These are just my guesses, speaking for myself – I am in no way representing my employer or anyone else.

A blockchain is essentially a large, distributed public ledger, maintained by individuals the world over in a distributed fashion, used to keep track of important things. In the case of Bitcoin, the most famous use of a blockchain, financial transactions are recorded and confirmed, thereby preventing the “double spend” problem – two people trying to spend the same unit of virtual currency. However, blockchains don’t just have to be used for currency – they can be used for anything. Once such item might be public ownership records or things land, buildings, cars, or stocks. The latter has a lot of banks excited, and blockchains are the new hot thing in “fintech”, or financial technology. I predict this will continue in a BIG way, moving us well into the glorious agorist future.

That’s not a really big leap though. What I predict for this coming year is that there will be some kind of subversion of a large blockchain (though not bitcoin’s). This will cause banking institutes to look hard at the security of their implementations.

Encryption Moves Mainstream
Things like letsencrypt.com are already allowing people to use SSL certificates for free for their sites, thereby allowing end-to-end encryption, so again, this isn’t entirely a big leap. What may be a big leap is that more and more data-at-rest (i.e., “in the cloud”) will also be regularly encrypted. What’s more interesting than that is that efforts that will allow operations on encrypted data without decrypting it first will come to fruition this year. I’ve heard rumblings that folks in MIT are close to such a thing from a mathematical perspective, and I predict a software implementation will not be too far behind. That will mean there’s no excuse for all data everywhere not to be encrypted in the near future.

Decryption Moves Mainstream
As with last year, I’m predicting an increase in the rise of responsible SSL decryption. It will move into the cloud as well. That will be a tad tricky, because then enterprises will need a way to … encrypt the responsibility decrypted data. There’s only a couple of ways to do that – VPNs or a direct connection. I foresee an increase in both. Look for some cloud providers to have to start guaranteeing what will essentially start being point-to-point connections for their larger customers.

Geo Data Gets Interesting
Most people are familiar with the “check in” wherein you essentially tell a particular service (Swarm, Facebook, etc.) where you are, and that allows you to record that and see who is nearby, play virtual contests against them, etc. I predict that someone will hijack one of these services (note, not the end-users) and use the data surreptitiously to their own ends. Imagine being a mall and being able to tap into a third-party feed of customers without having to pay and then using that to your advantage. It may not be in the US, but it’ll probably happen somewhere. Look for such services to have to show they’re protecting their users from being targeted by 3rd parties.

Chief Data Officers Become a Thing
Data science is exploding, and is also expanding into “decision science”. It’s not enough to get the “big data”, store it in a “data lake” and have data scientists look at and analyse it. You need someone to start making decisions based on that data. That person will want a seat at the board table, and CDOs will sit next to CIOs for that very purpose.

Unfair Play in Financial Markets
Lasers are starting to be used to shuttle market orders between points, thereby giving people/bots an edge over those who still use microwaves. Some people, likely losing money due to this, and who can’t afford the costly increases in equipment and manpower, will start to work through politics (and there are politicians who would help) to either establish a “maximin” (maximum minimum) speed at which orders can be traded. That or go the old fashioned route of sabotage. The latter is much cheaper, and I hope to be wrong but it seems a fairly easy prediction to make when people have the sorts of money on the line that invariably are in those situations.

IoT Suffers in a Big Way
I can’t quite say what it would be in the IoT space exactly that will make it a household word, but this is the year that something common to a lot of people will be hacked. (Not their SoHo router, either – that’s already hacked.) With all the various devices coming online and connected in this the fourth generation of SCADA and as it moves into the home and onto people’s bodies, there will be something that will make a number of people pause and reconsider security for these sorts of devices.

AI Doesn’t Cause Problems
Whether it will be because it’s not quite there yet, or because it’s really not going to end up malicious by default (sorry Elon, I don’t believe you’re going to be proven correct there) AI will not cause any major problems in society this year. There may be some kind of suggestion that a self-driving car injured or hurt someone, but it will be determined that the human is at fault. Laws and regulation, however, will start to catch up with all the things that are going to be self-piloting because that sort of thing will quickly clarify where liability lies until it’s found the human is at fault.

Cybersecurity Models Start to Apply to Biology (and Vice Versa)
Cybersecurity models (particularly where networks, graph theory, and forensics are involved) will start to apply to the biological – using advanced techniques to apply to the information science that is biology. These will start to cross into the biohacking and life-extension realms, and the opposite will also be true – lessons from biology will help cybersecurity modeling especially as data science begins to apply more and more. We might even see a slight uptick in longevity for the people who can afford some of the more cutting edge things.