With the rise of connected devices estimated to reach 22bn by 2020, Paul Hague, CEO of BlackDice, shares his thoughts on how technology is creating just as many problems as it solves.
Technology goes through a cycle of innovation and creativity – and then inadvertently destroys itself.
I think unfortunately as a human race, we are wonderful at hindsight and not particularly good at foresight. That means we end up in the situation where we are blinded by the possibilities of technology and fail to see the implications for further down the line.
I don’t think it matters what type of technology it is – even something as innocent as content on the internet has implications, from censorship to filtering.
In the mid to late 90s, it all seemed wonderful: the internet was going to give us access to masses of information and knowledge, and we couldn’t see any possible downsides. That’s a ship created, and the shipwreck didn’t take long to appear: adult material, the dark web, trafficking.
As soon as you create something, you create the downside to it.
The problem is, we’re always in a situation of chasing our tails, always trying to catch up. It eventually ends up with a whole industry such as cybersecurity dedicated to trying to fix the lack of foresight, and that’s where we are.
Of course, this is not particular to cybersecurity. Once we created the car, we had to create traffic lights, speed limits, roundabouts, all to fix problems only created because of the car in the first place. We’re good at fixing problems after the fact, but rarely do we consider them during development.
Examples are everywhere.
Even something as innocent as emails: who thought that free letters would be such a problem! We thought it would radically change the way we could communicate, and it has. Now we have scams and phishing filters ripping people off all over the world.
The smartphone in your hand? It’s supposed to be a wonderful thing and in many ways it is. But just with any technology, it comes with its own problems.
All the connected devices in the home are trying to improve our lives (which is questionable!), and we’re very easily taken in, like magpies. All these shiny things we can bring into our homes do look impressive, but they come with their own inherent problems. It’s all very well to have a connected fridge, but where is that data going? Only recently a young person had their phone confiscated and so used the family fridge to send tweets!
All behavioural analytics in google were once considered surplus, but then they realised they could resell the data – there’s the shipwreck. Ten years down the line, data privacy and data management are completely out of control.
There’s no getting around this. We will always be inventing the shipwrecks, with every new piece of technology we create.
And it goes beyond technology itself.
This is not just a technology issue. We have legislative models that are woefully behind the times, unable to keep up and becoming inadequate resources to process current events.
We cannot simply rely on self-policing, which has been attempted in a number of industries but just doesn’t work. That leaves us in the situation in which big technology companies are lobbying governments, who are in charge of writing the laws (or not) to restrict big technology companies – and users suffer.
This is perpetuating the shipwreck
We are allowing large companies to get around the very shipwrecks they’ve created. It’s time for governments to start talking with smaller companies such as BlackDice and many others, and discussing how can we fix this problem to keep citizens safe online.
This is well known inside the industry, but I suspect the wider general public have no idea. Just look at the noise around smart speakers and voice assistants: the tech companies said for years that they were not listening in, but now it’s all come out that they are listening, and they are listening all the time.
People do not understand the consequences of data privacy
What I hear most often is that they do not have anything to hide, so what does it matter if their smart speaker is listening in?
And this is what I tell them. Say, for example, you have a child with a medical situation that no one else knows about, except close family. It’s no one else’s business, after all – but you talk about it around your smart speaker.
That smart speaker company then sells your data to an insurance company. That insurance company realises it’s you, because it’s becoming more and more difficult to truly anonymise data, and your insurance premium goes up.
You’ve done nothing wrong. And yet you will suffer the consequences, financially, of having a smart speaker. You are not a criminal, but where is the line drawn between privacy and nothing to hide?
Technology companies are unable to stop
These global companies get to a point where they eat the apple from Eden – they cannot resist what they’re doing, knowing it’s wrong, but they cannot resist it. It’s simply too tempting.
Technology of convenience is creating these problems, and we’re sailing into the storm without thinking. It’s time to disembark, look at the ships we’ve created clearly, and start to think differently about the technology we’re embracing.
For more information about BlackDice and their cybersecurity technology designed for telecoms, click here.
About the Author
With 30 years tech experience behind him, Paul Hague has spent the last 15 years building, innovating and selling tech startups. During this time, he has held senior positions within multi-national companies, giving him the grounding and insight required to take the industry in a new exciting direction.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of EC-Council.