The World in 2025 – and the Future of Security

A commentary by Eugene Tsaplin, CTO at the IT und services company FindDataLab and senior lecturer at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

With the rapid pace of change in today’s world, many things in our lives will be considerably different by 2025 - alongside new emerging risks and challenges. As our reliance on digital technology grows, the risks from cyber criminals increase as well, expanding the areas of our lives that are subject to cyberattacks. This growing reliance upon digital technology also threatens our privacy due to the ease with which every activity can be tracked using digital footprints. This tracking is often hidden and done without our permission.

In all cases, these risks are usually profit-driven. On one side, cybercriminals are looking to blackmail us with ransomware or commit fraud; on the other side, legitimate companies looking to profit by selling our information to advertisers. This information includes our behaviors and interests, helping them target advertising.  Based upon current trends, the number of such attacks will grow tremendously by 2025, including new methods of attack not possible today.

The Internet of Things

Of particular concern for 2025 is the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT will have a massive impact on us as we increase our use of technology.  Increasingly, devices we buy have built-in wireless connections to the Internet and retain logs of how we use that device. While this is already common on newer televisions, digital watches and video cameras, lowered costs and demand will expand this to everyday household devices by 2025. Examples include lights, refrigerators, microwave ovens, door locks, alarms, laundry machines, coffee makers, and even dog collars.  

The term Internet of Things (IoT) is used in reference to this capability. It is important to note that the ‘Internet of Things’ is an umbrella term that refers to any device connected to the Internet. By the end of 2018, the world had an estimated 22 billion IoT connected devices. In the future, we expect to witness other smart appliances such as toasters, doors, lighting systems, cars, and toys, among others. Forecasts from International Data Corporation (IDC) suggest that the number will increase to over 41 billion IoT devices generating approximately 79 zettabytes of data by 2025.

Eugene Tsaplin
... is CTO at the IT und Services company and Senior Lecturer at Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

There are serious risks with this trend.  For example, many high-end, newer vehicles have a built-in Internet connection.  These more modern vehicles are all wired digitally - what if a cyber criminal could plant a virus in your vehicle that would disable your brakes on the freeway or takes over your steering wheel and built-in video cameras to control where you go? The current direction of technology supports this being a concern. Vehicle manufacturers will need to create exceedingly robust security controls by 2025 to protect consumers or face massive lawsuits.

Home security is another major area of concern, as door locks, alarms, garage door openers, lights, and video cameras increasingly become Internet-accessible. By 2025, the use of these objects will have increased tremendously and will be a cause of more home break-ins. In 2025, experts predict an increase in cyber risks due to the rise in IoT technology. Meanwhile, cybercriminals will have advanced their methods. They will adeptly utilize IoT devices to initiate attacks, such as the distributed denial of service (DDoS) that will overwhelm digital resources with network traffic. These attacks became common since 2016 and have increased in intensity and frequency with the continued expansion of IoT platforms.

Growing Privacy Risks

The more we connect our lives to technology, the higher the number of digital footprints left behind.  By 2025, there will be a growing amount of data collected about everything we do, no matter how small.  This data is worth much money to advertisers; that creates incentives for companies to build tracking into devices that transmit information back to them. This type of hidden tracking has already been seen with some smart TVs and will grow to other kinds of devices as we move towards greater use of IoT.

Another area where privacy risks will increase is the through use of voice recognition technology like Siri and Alexa, which can record everything you say.  While tracking your activity on small things may seem of little concern, companies are consolidating information into massive databases. Taken all together, these databases will have massive amounts of data about everything you do, where you go, what your interests are, and with whom you interact. According to Cisco VNI 2018 there will be 13.6 networked devices per person by 2022. And each device collects, transfers and stores data that is connected to our day-to-day life activity. These large repositories of information are of exceptionally high interest to cybercriminals and will be a major target and concern.

Tech Giants and Social Media

Tech Giants have introduced a new risk to the world; they and their advertisers can control what we see on the Internet and influence us and others. An example is the Google search engine. What websites you see when searching is entirely controlled by Google; a similar situation occurs with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, where what you see is under their control. These companies are profit-driven, leaving us mostly at their mercy of what we see when online.

By 2025, the trend of the rising use of the Internet and the consolidation of tech companies will result in an even more significant challenge to find neutral, factual information on any subject online.  The concern about “fake news” will continue to rise as technology makes it easier to falsify information, including changing photos and videos.  Smaller companies offering alternatives are often bought out and shut down to retain control. There are privacy risks as well, given the tech giants track everything you do and make it difficult to opt-out.

Another issue is adopting quantum computing by the world’s leading IT companies. In early 2019, IBM unveiled its first-ever quantum computer developed for commercial use. The company allows customers to use their sleek-looking IBM Q System One to perform quantum calculations online. The next five years will also herald an era of quantum computing solutions that can be used for social media data analysis, deep fake, artificial intelligence and machine learning. The technology’s quantum physics properties offer the promise to exceedingly outmatch regular computers. Five companies have manufactured quantum computing chips so far.

Leveraging Advanced Technologies to Keep a Tight Leash

The same AI technology that hackers weaponize to develop dominant attack vectors will hinder cyberattacks in the future. Security teams can develop AI-based solutions to analyze user behavior, deduce patterns, and identify abnormalities in systems. In effect, organizations with such tools will monitor and respond to security incidents in real-time. In addition, firewalls will have in-built machine learning algorithms that will detect and automatically flag anomalous patterns in network traffic.

Another practice that security professionals will implement to combat cybercrimes is creating advanced and more secure encryption algorithms. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is presently pushing to set standards for postquantum cryptography. Billions of dollars of business operations rely on potentially insecure public-key cryptography. Security experts, in turn, believe that organizations should proactively prepare; hackers could steal sensitive information now and decipher it later once they access quantum computers.

Lastly, mitigating future cyberattacks will require collaboration from businesses, governments, and international bodies. Governments should set aside resources for collecting intelligence about future cyberattacks against corporations. Regulators should examine and consolidate multiple overlapping laws that require companies to implement reasonable security. Organizations should leverage regulations like GDPR that offer a set of rules designed to help protect data from misuse and exploitation.

Ultimately, the expected advancements in IoT, artificial intelligence and cyber systems in the next five years will accrue numerous benefits to individuals, organizations, businesses, governments, and society in general. However, it is also evident that, by 2025, the world will be facing severe challenges due to cyber insecurity — especially from hackers. Fortunately, governments and organizations are in a rush to enact new regulations and devise AI-powered cybersecurity solutions to fend off malicious actors. Besides, developers will deploy advanced encryption algorithms that are hard to crack with even powerful quantum computers. What remains to be seen is how society will maximize the expected benefits, while addressing the cybersecurity concerns that are also expected to increase with new and advanced technologies.

Author: Eugene Tsaplin

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

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