Cybersecurity as a cornerstone

The landscape of cybersecurity and quantum computing are just some of the fascinating topics covered by a brilliant and engaging new report into our technological future produced by the World Economic Forum, in conjunction with Deloitte.

As digitisation increases steadily across the globe, there are consequent security concerns about the possibility of cyber-attacks. Not only are these attacks growing in number but given our growing dependence on information technology their impacts are increasingly calamitous. The total number of malware infections has risen over 600% since 2009,37 and in 2020 the number of records exposed through data leaks reached a staggering 36 billion. Unsurprisingly, companies and individuals are taking greater precautions to protect their data as a result.

With new technologies shaping how data is collected, shared and stored, the landscape of cybersecurity will continue to change as new threats emerge. For example, how will organisations react to cyber threats when today’s public-key encryption algorithms (keys to algorithms that  are discoverable and decryptable) are no longer secure?

With its tremendous power, quantum computing (which leverages quantum mechanics to enhance computational capacity) could eventually undermine even the most advanced encryption models. With this possibility in mind, to prepare for what is coming down the road, some forward- thinking organizations are already developing quantum cryptography mitigations (technology to avoid keys being decrypted, or hacked, at a rapid and exponential rate).

Organisations are now developing a sense of urgency surrounding information security, and trust looks set to remain part of the bigger picture for the foreseeable future.

Gone are the days of laborious dial-up connections. Now, communicating and interacting online can involve actions as simple as a tap of the finger or a voice command, leading to substantial increases in data generation. For organisations, there is a steady increase in reliance on analytics that use enabling technologies such as sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT: the internet-enabled network of physical objects that can connect to and exchange data with other devices and systems), robotics and ambient computing – all of which rely on the huge amounts of data that stem from our many digital interactions.

Data surge

As of 2020, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data were produced every day worldwide, and it is estimated that by 2025, the generation of data per day will have reached 463 exabytes (a nearly 200x increase). Human interaction is becoming increasingly digital, in part due to the rise of social media. In just one year, from 2019 to 2020, the number of people using social media worldwide increased by 10% to 3.96 billion,26 with more than two-thirds of all internet users now active on social media.

The enabling technologies that contribute to the growth of online interaction are also taking centre stage, including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), ubiquitous connectivity powered by next-generation wireless technologies such as 5G, and IoT devices. Coupled with the decreasing costs for information and computation, these enabling technologies are gaining more traction across a range of industries.

We believe that, going forwards, as the gap between the physical and the digital narrows, the data volume of always-on connectivity will continue to grow steadily.

The primacy of data privacy

At the internet’s inception, it was hard to imagine the extent to which our lives would be intertwined with digital technologies. Perhaps for this reason, the World Wide Web was not originally designed with security or trust in mind. Today, though, increasing numbers of users are focused on how much of their personal information is shared online.

Data ownership: Institutional

Across the globe, what were formerly rather vague responsibilities relating to data ownership are now being formalized into laws, rules and regulations. In 2018, the EU implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to regulate the protection and privacy of data. That same year in the United States, the State of California passed the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), giving consumers more control over the personal information that businesses collect about them. In addition, public officials in Europe and Asia have begun to call for the principles of data ownership to be developed beyond the scope of existing privacy laws.

These rules on data privacy and protection may prove especially helpful with the steady growth in the use of national Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems, which have seen a 46% increase in global adoption rates in the past five years. While there is little regulation today that is specific to international data sharing for private health apps, centralised health data and data sharing solutions have proven particularly essential with the onset of COVID-19, and companies are partnering with large hospital systems to analyse patient data as part of the attempt to improve care.

Decentralised

Today, the centralised institutions that collect personal data also actually own most of it. Due to the various privacy and ethical concerns that surround third-party ownership of personal information, many users have taken a newfound interest in decentralised models.

Grounded in blockchain technology, decentralised data ownership provides an immutable and verifiable database that allows end-users to have full control over who accesses their data. There are currently a number of blockchain projects underway that are seeking to increase transparency and end-user data ownership through the creation of decentralised social media and web models.

Decentralised ledger technology (the basis of transaction- recording digital systems in which detail is recorded in multiple locations without centralised administration) is still in its infancy, and will need to overcome technological and security obstacles before broad adoption is possible. Nevertheless, we see decentralised technologies and approaches to data ownership playing a growing role in the future as consumers become more concerned about their personal data rights.

The above offers a highlight of the full report, Technology Futures: Projecting the Possible, Navigating What’s Next, produced by the World Economic Forum in conjunction with Deloitte. To read the full report, click here.

As of 2020, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data were produced every day worldwide, and it is estimated that by 2025, the generation of data per day will have reached 463 exabytes (a nearly 200x increase).

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