The more things change, the more they stay the same, or so it seems. Naive users share their passwords with the world, senior managers expose printed confidential material to the gaze of the news media, systems stay unpatched and vulnerable to hackers for months or years, while more than half the population continues to visit dodgy websites that serve up all manner of malware infections.
But things are changing, even if the threats we experience remain constant. We are entering the era of the robotic vehicle and of 'wearable tech', like the Apple watch and the next generation of Google Glass. It will be an era in which the first humans to really embrace technology have it embedded within their bodies; an era in which the vast quantities of location and lifestyle data already being collected about all of us ('Big Data') really start to be fully exploited, enriched and monetized on a scale previously unknown.
And while this exponential increase in the power and variety of computing platforms and data analytics is underway, the rate of development of user skills and awareness will continue to be linear, at best. This is the era in which the capacity of systems to support decision making will outstrip the ability of humans to make decisions. Competitive advantage will increasingly go to those with the technology to automatically execute trading and financial decisions in nano-seconds, largely removing humans from the loop.
What's wrong with all that? you may ask. The dangers are many. For one, if we haven't managed to design out the software flaws and vulnerabilities in today's systems, what hope is there of us doing so in tomorrow's far more complex systems? Secondly, while we can hope to write code that supports logical actions, can we ever write code that enforces ethics or morality? Can we teach our machines to reason, for example when a robot is forced to choose between self-destruction, the life of a child running across the road or that of the dog following the child?
We are moving too quickly, pulled along by market forces and by those who understand technology better than they understand humanity. And we are not helped by a generation of regulators and decision makers that is sometimes decades behind in their thinking and still struggling to come to grips with the implications of mobile phones and laptops. It is time to up our game.
Mark Johnson is an MISTI author and trainer and his highly popular courses include Auditing Emerging Cyber Threats - Find out more about this course