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Wednesday, 04 May 2016 09:05

CeBIT Keynote - CyberCrime: From Sci-Fi to boardroom threat

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Where do the challenges lie in the digital future? Will combinations of new technologies lead to Frankentech? Let’s appreciate technological advances but recognise there is a dark side.

That was the overarching theme of Shara Evans CeBIT keynote. She is a Futurist and Chief Executive Officer, Market Clarity. She is recognised as one of the world’s top female futurists, fusing her engineering background with an intuitive understanding of how society is likely to respond to new technologies.

Her presentation was jam-packed with examples and analogies but one common thread came through.

“We can no longer afford to have security and privacy as an afterthought. We need ethics completely embedded into the system,” she said.

The rest of the article is paraphrased.

Digital security is a state of ongoing work. Yesterday it was the Gumtree hack – who knows what is next? Hackers are getting smarter.

We are carrying the greatest piece of technology to date in our pocket. It is subject to virus, malware, hacks and can steal our information easily. Hackers are targeting your device.

Wearables presently have privacy as an afterthought. It is scary how much information goes into the cloud.

Facial recognition and biometrics are everywhere. What if a hacker stole your biometric data? Do you need plastic surgery for a new face? The tech is getting so good that mind mapping – a digital representation of you could be stolen.

IoT is hackable. Think oil rigs, ships, steel mills, aeroplanes, cars – hackers have already found back doors via a plane's entertainment system. But worse what if a hacker altered the IoT data feed to disrupt traffic in a city?

Software source code can be compromised to put in back doors. Look at the Juniper hack that exposed the admin password and gave access to firewalls. Now fixed but the vulnerability was there for two years.

Backdoors are scary. Look at the Apple and FBI case. Once a backdoor is legitimised you can bet cybercriminals will access it.

Stray USB flash drives are a real concern with cybercriminals distributing them to spread malware.

A hackers real tool is social engineering where they get to know you and start highly targeting spear phishing. One day you put up a photo of your new TV on Facebook and then the next you start talking about holidays – hello this is an open invitation.

We are told via TV that there are super hackers like Felicity Smoak in Arrow or Walter O’Brien in Scorpion or Brody or Raven in CSI Cyber who can open any database, hack any device and do it from the remote comfort of their desk. While these super hackers do not really exist you never know how much is Sci-Fi and how much is real. But it is dead easy to hack into email or the cloud.

Evans highlighted some amazing new technologies like insect-sized drones, but marry that with advances in invisibility and you could discover boardroom secrets. Or what if the Minority Report got it wrong?

The real risk for any organisation is a data breach that can cost millions or even billions of dollars. The US Target breach cost over $1 Billion, the CEO and CIO lost their jobs, and revenue fell 46% in the following quarter. The Ashley Madison hack cost it $850 million but worse it reveals that there were way more men than women and it will probably spell the end of the company.

Comment

Ironically the phrase ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ has been attributed to both Voltaire and Peter Parker in Spider-Man both of whom weilded great powers due to technological advances. I am sure it has been used by many other great men.

Technology is the great new power and I think Evans opening remark about ethics being completely embedded into it is vital. It is up to the people and the legislators to set and monitor boundaries. For example, in wearables who owns the data, and what can be done with it without permission? When they see examples stepping outside the boundaries, they amend the accords and close loopholes.

Some universal accords will go a long way to setting ground rules and helping device makers and software developers ensure that their products comply.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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