The end of the year in tech PR agency terms means one thing: predictions. What were we promised this year by IT vendors that hasn’t yet been delivered? Can we expect the robots will finally take over in 2018? Are Daleks going to make a comeback? Or did they never go away?
With a fair few unanswered questions, the lorries headed to WIRED Security 2017 in Kings Cross to find out, among other things, how intruders got into the Democratic National Committee’s servers this year, how terrorists structure their press office (central hub to approve and disseminate content to satellite offices) and which country’s cyber-criminals are most likely to hold us to ransom for sensitive data.
In what felt like a briefing fit for James Bond himself, Dmitri Alperovitch of CrowdStrike (the vendor brought in to assess the Democrats issue) was very keen to tell us the threat from North Korea isn’t so much nuclear, but cyber. Remember when the FBI blamed the state for the Sony hack in 2014? It turns out that’s still playing on American security vendors’ minds. Alperovitch suggested the global bank system is the current target – given North Korea has no vested interest in its survival or demise as an isolated state.
He also highlighted more day-to-day real-life examples of what happens when CrowdStrike speaks to an enterprise where the company has been taken offline. “The first question a CEO asks is…can’t I just write a cheque?” It’s at that point the security vendor has to break the bad news: you can’t just write off an attack as a loss and hope it will go away – as we’ve seen there are much bigger and longer-term reputational effects. And it’s not that simple to get a system back up and running.
Google’s Allison Miller took the Wired Security stage to speak about how Google is adapting its messages online to steer people into making safe browsing choices. And Lucas Dixon, chief scientific researcher at Jigsaw, discussed if AI could help silence trolls and counteract humans being intimidated into not taking part in online conversations. Statistically, women and non-white men are more prone to be ousted from online debate by shady characters who continue to try their best to make it an unsafe space.
There seemed to be a common thread running through the WIRED Security keynotes. Technology is adapting to human behaviours – whether it’s catering for a lack of awareness of security issues or a deep-seated intent to do harm. It does appear rather strange and alarming we’re ending the year talking about using AI to moderate the vile behaviour of humans – as if this should be a celebrated thing. Surely this raises a few red flags about humans’ murky relationship with technology and how one can influence the other. Perhaps in 2018 we should work on rectifying human-to-human communication before we apply machine learning?