The vital role that cybersecurity plays in protecting our privacy, rights, freedoms, and everything up to and including our physical safety will be more prominent than ever during 2020. More and more of our vital infrastructure is coming online and vulnerable to digital attacks, data breaches involving the leak of personal information are becoming more frequent and bigger, and there’s an increasing awareness of political interference and state-sanctioned cyberattacks. The importance of cybersecurity is undoubtedly a growing matter of public concern.
We put our faith in technology to solve many of the problems we are facing, both on a global and personal scale. From smartphones and AI personal assistants to space travel, curing cancer, and tackling climate change. But as the world becomes increasingly connected, the opportunities for bad guys to take advantage for profit or political ends inevitably increases. Here’s what will be top of the agenda when it comes to cybersecurity over the coming year:
1. Artificial intelligence (AI) will play an increasing role in both cyber-attack and defense
AI is the new arms race, but unlike earlier arms races, anyone can get involved – there’s no need for the sort of resources that were previously only available to governments.
This means that while AI is undoubtedly being researched and developed as a means of crippling an enemy state’s civil and defense infrastructure during war, it’s also easily deployable by criminal gangs and terrorist organizations.
So rather than between nations, today’s race is between hackers, crackers, phishers and data thieves, and the experts in cybersecurity whose job it is to tackle those threats before they cause us harm. Just as AI can “learn” to spot patterns of coincidence or behavior that can signal an attempted attack, it can learn to adapt in order to disguise the same behavior and trick its way past our defenses.
This parallel development of offensive and defensive capabilities will become an increasingly present theme as AI systems become more complex and, importantly, more available and simpler to deploy. Everything from spam email attempts to trick us into revealing our credit card details to denial-of-service attacks designed to disable critical infrastructure will grow in frequency and sophistication. On the other hand, the tech available to help us avoid falling victim, such as deep learning security algorithms, automation of systems that are vulnerable to human error, and biometric identity protection, are getting better too.