It is no doubt that Innovations are fueled by technology which in turn are the bedrocks of development in any society. Last month, I participated in the Techwomen Exchange Programme where I had the opportunity of being mentored at Symantec World Headquarters in Mountain View California. Living and working in Silicon Valley (the hub of technology in the world) showed me from inside-out how hundreds of innovations are being rolled out daily from the area. I also witnessed the colossal impact technology can have on the development of any nation and the world at large.
In a bid to make life better and easier, inventors in addition to creating new [software] products consistently improve on the existing ones to enhance usability, increase speed or reduce the physical size (in the case of physical products); the whole world has been made smaller and the people made closer, we have been made to constantly be in a hurry; a computer that takes two minutes to boot is now too slow – we can’t wait any longer! The urge to outrun competitions is a major contributor to this trend. Almost every aspect of our lives have been automated, in fact Google Inc is currently working on and testing their driver-less car.
When my professors were in their college first year in Computer Science, programming was done through punched cards, the computers were so large that they required a whole room in a building to keep it in, 512Mb was a lot of memory and you wouldn’t even want to imagine the physical size (sounds funny?). Inventors of computer systems at that time would have imagined a device 100 times larger than “the then-large machines” when you predict a future where computing devices have internal memory as high as 10Gb, high pixel-ed cameras, GPS and so on, all in one device called mobile phone which occupies the palm of our hands today!
With the development and launch of social media platforms; communication media that allow interactivity among users, anyone can share contents that will reach billions of users around the world. Some decades back, to get a broadcast out to several people, you at least need the help of TV or radio station who would set up the antenna, recording studio etc to capture your voice and video for onward transmission to the viewers who happen to turn on their TV or radio on certain frequencies at the time of broadcast. Today, it takes me less than 2 minutes to get a video recording and make it accessible and watched by millions of people around the world right before you get to the end of this article, all these are through the power of smart phones and social media like facebook, vimeo, youtube etc
Attackers of today have a lot of resources at their disposals, terrorist groups have leveraged on the power of social media which reaches millions of users in a very short period of time to further advance their missions in our society. The situation now seem as if; while IT security policy makers are still wondering and studying how certain tools work in order to assess and define their safe use, the inventors have released a newer version with more features. In the extreme case, attackers have used the same tool/platform to develop and share malicious contents which have gone viral; before they ask the platform provider/inventor to pull down this content, millions of users have downloaded it. With the availability of tools to hide IP addresses, terrorists are more difficult to track down especially in a society where IT security is under developed.
As a security professional, we can understand that this high speed of innovation and the willingness to move products very fast to the market could constitute a serious threat to security. It has exposed us more than ever before to security breach. We need to be ahead of the game, we cannot afford to sleep with both eyes closed.
Policy makers, governments and security professionals need to engage at the same speed of thoughts with which inventors come up with product release – the act of thinking about version 5.1 when you just launched version 1.0. – This will get us ready on how to set the policy right when new features are eventually added.