Fundamental questions about the security of innovative tech

Image credit: Romeo Pj /

Some people are very hard to please. Journalists are particularly hard. One moment we are complaining about the lack of progress of a technology that we have been writing about for the last couple of years. We moan that AI, IoT, 5G, VR, AR and everything else that you can condense into two or three letter acronyms is not living up to the hype. Then we moan that we probably don’t need most of it anyway.

And, when we have done that, then we moan that it is all happening too fast, and we are, basically, doomed.

The IoT is a classic example.

Scroll through the press releases over the past two weeks or so and you will be confronted by any number of announcements about Ericsson doing this, or Cisco doing that and you are left with the feeling that we will soon be drifting through life, sensors quietly beeping to themselves and keeping us on the straight and narrow and as comfortable as can be.

Then we read the articles that surface amongst the hype fuelled press releases and we begin to wonder whether any of it is a good idea.

Soon, the world will be completely connected. It will be driven by AI and we will be able to see it and interact with it in an immersive, VR kind of way.

So, then we think: “Is that really sensible? Is that really safe or secure?”

And the answer is, “No, it most certainly is not.”

Among the recent announcements was the news that Ericsson is producing an app catalogue for operators and Vodafone is trialling an air traffic control system based on drones.

Yet, when you see research from, say, 451 [PDF] that says their survey highlights the fact that almost 50% of respondents will not be deploying IoT technology because of security issues – mainly physical security – you have to pause.

When you see an article that says bad guys are already exploring the carnage they can reap using AI as a weapon, you begin to put two and two together (and make about 50,000).

You visualize dark rooms, with blinking screens and shadowy figures, hacking into the drone based air traffic control network or the sensors in a busy port being reprogrammed, or your own home being invaded.

And you worry. Is it all going too fast? Do we need to take a breath and make as sure as we can that the security is up to scratch (not that it ever can be)?

And who should take responsibility for the security of all these new networks and devices that are springing up?


Independent companies?

Telecoms operators?

All of the above?

The answer may well be a combination of the above. Telecoms operators now seem to be on the case when it comes to identity and authentication, which is part of the battle, but there needs to be ever more co-operation. Security needs, ultimately, to be built in.

But the questions remain – should we hurtle headlong into these new (and exciting) territories without being completely sure we have the security issues covered? But if we wait, will we ever feel safe enough to move forward?

As a senior scientist with IBM said a few years ago, “Our feet are dangling over the edge of a very uncertain future.”

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