Cybersecurity

Technology Becomes Pivotal Battleground in 2016

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The escalating terror attacks that are gripping the world will dramatically change the technology landscape in the coming year. As the threats of more deadly attacks on innocent people become more pervasive, people’s attitudes and public policies toward technology will fundamentally change. 

Whether we like it or not, technology has become a tool of today’s rapidly growing terrorist groups. They recruit new members, showcase their latest atrocities and promote their causes via social media. They use encryption to hide their plans and coordinate their attacks. And they are becoming more adept at not only hacking government and corporate databases for political purposes but also getting closer to gaining access to power plants, manufacturing operations and other key components of the “grid.” 

As a consequence of these intensifying threats, there will be a groundswell of demands in 2016 for new technology policies, products and best practices to counteract these risks. 

After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, people were willing to sacrifice some of their individual freedoms for the sake of greater national security in airports and elsewhere. With the latest round of terrorist attacks, I believe there will be even greater willingness to accept tighter vigilance in our day-to-day lives to reduce the likelihood of additional attacks disrupting our daily routines. 

This change in attitude will push aside the privacy concerns raised by Edward Snowden’s disclosures in favor of more cybersecurity efforts by a worldwide network of government agencies. The new round of attacks will also drive America’s European allies to also put aside their privacy concerns and rally behind policies that align with the Patriot Act program to gain more information and insight from joint cybersecurity efforts to prevent terror acts. 

Instead of resisting governmental efforts to tap data streams that can uncover possible threats, security software vendors and other technology companies will also be compelled to relinquish more information. They will also redesign their encryption products to include keys that permit law-enforcement agencies to access information that can uncover potential threats. 

In the same way the space project became a major catalyst for technological advancements in the 1960s, the war against terrorism will spark a new round of technology investments and initiatives. New governmental funding will exponentially expand and significantly accelerate technological advancements already being fueled by venture money in big data, machine-to-machine (M2M) analytics and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI). 

Social media changes will also be made to offset today’s terrorism realities. Facebook quickly implemented a new safety “check-in” capability immediately after the Paris attacks to help its members to communicate with their family and friends. Twitter can also be expected to add similar features. 

You can also expect the social media companies to tighten their policies regarding the distribution of content that is considered promoting terrorism and inappropriate. Eliminating the opportunity to showcase terrorist acts and other propaganda on YouTube will also become a priority. These initiatives will pull the “soapbox” out from under the feet of terrorist groups and reduce their global visibility. 

Of course, today’s terrorism realities will also have a significant impact on corporate policies, procedures and, most importantly, IT budgets to safeguard their people, products and production processes. For instance, the goals and objectives of their Internet of Things (IoT) and digital transformation initiatives will be reshaped by the new set of security concerns. Past IoT and digitalization projects were primarily driven by desires to better understand product usage, customer preferences and potential buying behavior. Opportunities to use the same sensors and other tracking technologies to identify potential illicit activity will become another incentive to pursue IoT initiatives. 

There will be plenty of positive developments in the tech and software sector in the coming year unrelated to the war on terrorism. However, I believe the spreading threats will preoccupy much of our attention. It can also create new bonds among companies and their employees as they come together to fight a common enemy. 

And, just like in the case of Apollo 13, “failure is not an option” will become the renewed battle cry of the joint public/private anti-terror campaign worldwide. 

Jeff Kaplan is the managing director of THINKstrategies, founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace and host of the Cloud Innovators Summit executive forum series. He can be reached at jkaplan@thinkstrategies.com. 

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