Richard Tracy, CSO of Telos Corporation, is a 33-year cyber industry veteran and security and compliance expert.
As we open the door on 2021 and ring in a fresh start, the possibilities seem endless. When it comes to the security world, however, the reality is far less boundless. It’s natural to look ahead and imagine a blank slate after the year we’ve just had; but unfortunately, years come and go and the same security problems persist.
While 2021 predictions may abound this time of year, I’d wager we’ll be talking about many of the same things next year as we have for the past decade. Organizations will fail to patch vulnerabilities and get breached, insiders will wreak havoc and misconfigurations will cause chaos. I expect security issues that should have already been solved will continue to make headlines in the form of major compliance fines and mega breaches. So while everyone is focused on what will happen in the next 12 months, I’d like to turn the tables and reframe the conversation. Here’s my take on four things that won’t happen in 2021:
We’ll be able to trust everything we see and hear.
If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that disinformation has the power to incite chaos and civil unrest. During the 2016 elections, we got a taste of the power of social influence and misinformation. Four years later (and in another election year no less), Covid-19 brought with it a wave of disinformation so powerful that news consumption became a task in and of itself. I believe we can expect this rampant spread and influence of falsehoods and half-truths to only continue in the coming year, with data-stealing and tampering leading us to question everything we read in the news. Unfortunately, the “fake news” moniker isn’t going anywhere soon, and this continued erosion of trust will necessitate careful consideration of any information that comes our way.
Major strides will be made with 5G.
The promise and potential of 5G technology have dominated discourse across industries for the past few years, yet little progress has been made. While towers have been built and 5G devices are already on the market, connectivity still lags, and there is a myriad of security concerns and political issues yet to be played out around this technology. Despite my unwavering hope for improvements in these departments, I do not doubt that confusion and mystery will continue to reign supreme in 2021. In other words, the 5G wave has not yet crested and will only continue to build in the coming year.
AI will solve all of our problems.
Don’t get me wrong — artificial intelligence has tremendous potential when it comes to advancing automation. I am especially excited to see where AI takes us in the areas of IT risk management, compliance and auditing. In a recent survey conducted by my organization, we found that 99% of respondents thought their organization could benefit from AI by automating processes, such as IT security and privacy compliance efforts. Software-assisted automation has already saved organizations countless working hours in these areas, and AI could potentially take us to the next level when it comes to threat analysis and risk-based decision making. That said, it will undoubtedly take time and a cautious approach to turn such critical decision-making tasks over to a machine. Indeed, the human element of risk management will continue to be essential in the years to come.
A switch will flip, and life will return to normal.
While it’s natural to focus on the promise of a new year, it’s important to come to terms with the fact that 2021 is likely to be a continuation of 2020. The reality is it will take time for the ripple effect from the pandemic to cease making waves. However, I would argue that in many ways, our new normal is not all bad. The pandemic has undoubtedly changed the way we live and work, but some of those changes may be for the better. For instance, remote work has the potential to ease the cyber talent shortage by allowing organizations to recruit from a talent pool that is not geographically bound. In many cases, mobile workers tend to be more productive and fulfilled when freed from the stress of daily commutes, leading to happier employees and improved retention.
As we turn the page to a new chapter, I anticipate many things will remain the same, especially when it comes to the core security problems — data security, patching, phishing and more — that seem to persist year after year. And while disinformation may run rampant and 5G may not come to fruition, there’s a lot that could happen in 2021. Remember that progress takes time and innovation often comes in the darkest of hours.