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Paul’s 3 Bold Tech Predictions for 2020

Every year our fearless in-house futurist Paul Hager pulls out his crystal ball and peers into technology’s future.

In 2019, Paul’s predictions involved 5G technology, autonomous vehicles, and digital ethics. What can you expect to face as a new decade unfolds? Let’s see what Paul says.

Bold Prediction #1: AI/ML Will Hugely Impact Cybersecurity

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are becoming key components of security products – as well as the attacks used to circumvent cybersecurity protections.

First, how exactly are AI/ML involved in cybersecurity? With the millions of events going on inside your network every day, it’s practically impossible for a person to parse all of that information. Plus, it wouldn’t be very exciting work. So instead we use AI/ML to sort through all the data.

Companies believe it’s increasingly important to have security tools that use AI/ML. Yet many IT professionals don’t really know WHY that’s important.

A 2019 survey by Webroot discovered:

  • 70% of U.S. respondents said it was very important that a new cybersecurity tool advertise the use of AI/ML
  • 35% of IT professionals consider AI/ML to be at least somewhat important in their decision-making process
  • 65% consider these technologies a necessity

Yet more than half of survey respondents (58%) aren’t sure what having AI/ML in cybersecurity tools actually means.

Basically, we as IT professionals are telling the cybersecurity industry that must have AI/ML involved in security products to make us more likely to buy them. Yet many of us can’t explain to our bosses why it’s a necessity – other than that it sounds good to be able to say your company has AI-based protections.

You cannot let cybersecurity companies get away with just saying their product has AI or ML in it. That’s not enough. We need to ask questions about their products. How does their AI make decisions? How transparent is it? Are they validating the input that’s going into the model?

Adversarial AI: The Dark Side of AI

Whenever we invent new technology, we also have its anti-technology in the market. Bad actors are using AI/ML to craft more sophisticated attacks. We’re already seeing examples of this out there in the threat world. Cybercriminals are creating adversarial AI models in order to trick AI-driven cybersecurity systems.

Using code, adversarial AI convinces your AI-driven security product that the bad things going on in your network are actually completely normal. Everything stays green while the bad guys run amok through your network. Which is why we need layered approaches to security.

One key evolution of adversarial AI has to do with voice phishing or vishing. Brand new technology from Lyrebird AI learns to imitate your voice and then creates a text-to-speech engine that delivers spoken word that sounds just like you. It was originally intended to help podcasters edit a mistake in something they said without having to re-record the entire segment.

With this tool, imagine how easy it is for a scammer to fake a phone call or voicemail that sounds like it’s coming from a boss, a CEO, a CFO, even a client. The voicemail says, “Please wire the money to this new account,” in your boss’s voice. How would a user know the difference?

You spend so much money on great tech to prevent bad emails from landing in your users’ inboxes. The opportunity for voice-based phishing using AI tech like Lyrebird is going to circumvent all the good protections you have. Your biggest security risk is still your users.

Bold Prediction #2: Quantum Computing Will Terrify the Security World

What is Quantum Computing?

Google’s Foxtail Quantum Processor was able to solve a calculation in just over 3 minutes that would take the world’s fastest traditional supercomputer around 10,000 years.

In the computers you use every day, everything is either a 0 or a 1. With quantum computing, the answer can be a lot more than just 0 or 1. It can be based anywhere between 0 and 1. It has another dimension to it (called a qubit), which allows us to write programs that are exponentially more complicated and delivers processing power exponentially better than traditional processors.

For example, it could help us more accurately predict hurricane trajectories and other weather patterns.

Image result for quantum computing explained

Quantum Computing’s Impact on Security

Quantum computing brings many exciting possibilities – but it has a security impact. Here’s the problem. All of the security we use today is based on the fact that it would take too much time for a traditional computer to ever crack RSA keys (used in SSL encryption).

Quantum computers are so good and so fast that all of those RSA keys become irrelevant. All the SSL we use to protect our networks today can all be cracked by a quantum computer in a matter of seconds.

This is a situation where computing may iterate faster than our security can keep up with.

Scared yet? Well, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is trying to get ahead of this quantum conundrum. For the last 2 years, NIST has been developing standards for quantum-safe RSA keys as part of its post-quantum cryptography project.

I recommend you keep an eye on their website for the latest developments: www.nist.gov/pqcrypto.

Bold Prediction #3: Traditional Media Use Will Drop Off a Cliff

Technology is increasingly invading our day-to-day entertainment life. And it’s going to keep changing how we communicate with people and advertise to them.

Research firm eMarketer predicts that in 2020, 25.3 million U.S. households will cut the cord with traditional pay TV services. That number is expected to reach 34.9 million households in 2023 – about 27% of all U.S. households.

Where are all these viewers going? One place is Twitch. It’s THE fastest growing media platform in the world. It started as a platform for people to watch other people play video games. But now it’s gone beyond that to include all kinds of people streaming their everyday lives. On Twitch, you can watch someone sit and talk, watch someone walk around a city, and of course watch someone play Fortnite or Minecraft. It’s a powerful media platform and it’s rising in popularity.

Key Twitch Statistics

  • 2.2 million daily broadcasters
  • 15 million daily Twitch viewers
  • 560 billion minutes of Twitch viewed in 2018 (58% increase from 2017)
  • As of 2017, 124 million clips were stored on Twitch, with 1.7 billion views collectively
  • Twitch users watch 95 minutes per day on average
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This shift in how we consume information changes how companies need to advertise to reach their target audiences. 84% of Millennials don’t like traditional advertising. They can sniff out ads and often won’t watch them.

Instead, businesses are turning to influencer marketing. Popular platforms like Twitch give rise to influencers – users with established credibility in a particular niche that have huge numbers of followers.

People trust influencer marketing more than traditional ads. When you look at a product on Amazon, what do you trust more: the product description written by the seller or the reviews from people who’ve used the product?

80% of marketers find influencer marketing effective and nearly two-thirds having upped their influencer marketing budgets. It’s going to be a $10 billion industry in 2020.

Looking Ahead to 2020

Organizations that take a proactive approach to new technology will ultimately be the ones who stay ahead of the curve. Whatever the future brings, the best advice I can give you is to find an IT provider partner that’s forward-looking and focused on your success to help you navigate the changes ahead.

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