Three next-gen technologies that will define cybersecurity in the next decade

Author: David Grady

Over the past decade, cybersecurity has gone from an IT specialty to the subject of the front page news. As cyberattacks cost billions while exposing the data of millions of customers around the globe, cybersecurity is now seen as one of the defining roles of IT today.

But if you think the last decade was rough for cyberattacks, you haven’t seen anything yet. This next decade will see the world become fully digital as legacy processes and hardware are replaced with smart systems and devices. This digital transformation will help companies create new products, business models, and even industries, while making existing enterprises run smarter, faster and more productively than before. However, it will also significantly increase the cyberattack surface of organizations as each connection creates a new access point to a company’s data.

Over the next decade, cybersecurity should become your key strategic focus of digital transformation if you hope to ward off financially-motivated cyberfraud, attacks by foreign powers and terrorist groups, and the havoc caused by trolls and mischief-makers. In the past, enterprises have often found themselves playing catch up trying to defend against the latest exploits as cybercriminals grow in sophistication. The good news is that there are a number of next-generation technologies that you’ll be able to incorporate over the coming years to help give your organization the advantage it needs to defend against ever-growing threats.

Protecting connectivity with 5G

5G wireless networks promise to create a revolution in the way the world connects. With greater increases in bandwidth and upload/download speeds, coupled with a dramatic decrease in latency, enterprises will be able to use 5G networks to connect, control and power everything from remote factory machinery to autonomous vehicles to internet-enabled innovations that aren’t even on the drawing board yet.

According to the Mobile Security Index 2020 Report, 5G promises to deliver several benefits, including:

  • Increased productivity thanks to predictive maintenance of equipment, more responsive supply chains and greater visibility of production
  • Enhanced customer experiences through technology like augmented reality and hyper-personalization
  • Increased efficiency through real-time monitoring of goods and modeling of process changes using digital twins
  • Improved safety and well-being across industries, such as using remote patient monitoring and telemedicine to enhance patient care or incorporate smart safety monitoring systems to help avoid auto collisions
  • Increased automation of vehicles, machinery and infrastructure

From a cybersecurity perspective, 5G networks are inherently more secure than 4G or 3G networks. Security features can make your network even more secure, such as added encryption, additional defensive measures at the edge of the network, network function virtualization, mobile edge computing, and network slicing.

However, all this security will only work if you enact it. With 5G, the world will see billions of new devices connect to the internet each year, ranging from critical national infrastructure to IoT-enabled toasters. Cybercriminals will seek to exploit applications, devices and processes that have not been designed or deployed with the appropriate level of security in mind. When leveraging 5G, make sure you take the time to review and approve new technologies before incorporating them into your network.

Protecting data with blockchain

Blockchain acts as a distributed database to record digital transactions. These transactions are then linked and secured using cryptography, making them unalterable. As information is added, each new block of information is similarly verified, recorded and sealed off by encryption, creating a blockchain that is a complete, verified record of all transactions. A blockchain can be public, like with digital currencies such as Bitcoin, or private, only accessible via permission-based platforms.

The promise of blockchain’s cybersecurity implications is obvious. The technology has the ability to provide the data integrity and digital identity verification required to reduce or eliminate a wide swath of cyber-risks, such as identity theft and data tampering. Changes to data can be easily traced, helping ensure your most important data is authentic, and because of the distributed nature of blockchain, you don’t have to worry about a single point of failure.

In the coming years, blockchain will become a foundational technology for securing data like healthcare records, financial transactions, and business data. Just one example of the potential of blockchain can be seen with PCI DSS compliance. According to the 2019 Payments Security Report, just over a third (36.7%) of organizations actively maintain PCI DSS programs even though it's been 15 years since the launch of the payment card data security standard. Blockchain provides the essential components an organization would need to meet their compliance requirements.

While promising, blockchain as a cybersecurity tool is still an emerging use case, which means many cybersecurity experts might not have the blockchain expertise to incorporate the complex technology effectively. Look for proven use cases, such as Machine State Integrity, that are relatively simple to incorporate into your security posture and that can provide immediate measurable security benefits.

React faster with Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) already power a number of sophisticated cybersecurity tools on the market today, and will increasingly find their way into applications big in small.

AI and ML can sift through massive amounts of data and make proactive decisions, perfect for helping overtaxed IT teams to detect, prevent and respond to a near-constant cadence of threats and attacks.

The faster a threat or an attack can be discovered, the less damage it will do. According to the 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, 98% of security incidents and 88% of data breaches continue to occur within one of nine patterns. It’s easy to imagine how AI and ML could be put to work to specifically protect or respond against these identified patterns faster.

The bad news is that cybercriminals will have more and more access to AI and ML too. Using these tools, they can conduct attacks at a scale that traditional cybersecurity defenses were not built to handle, in ways that will be difficult to predict or prepare for.

The coming battles between defensive AI and offensive AI will make today’s cat-and-mouse skirmishes between security staff and hackers look quaint in comparison. As AI becomes the primary tool cybercriminals use to conduct attacks, the only effective response will be more AI. Understanding and incorporating AI into your cybersecurity toolkit now can give you the foundation you need to prepare for the days ahead.

Don’t let your security stay stuck in the past

While no one knows for sure what the future of cybersecurity holds, everyone agrees that cybersecurity is the future of business. With so much of the enterprise becoming digital, cybersecurity needs to become not just the foundation for IT, but the foundation of your business strategy.

To help you learn more, download our white paper Next-generation Technologies and Cybersecurity. This primer gives security-program influencers and non-IT executives alike a deeper understanding of these technologies – without the tech-talk– so that non-experts can better understand what’s coming next in the world of cybersecurity, helping ensure your digital innovation doesn't outpace your security oversight.

Learn more about how Verizon can help your enterprise protect against today’s cyber threats while preparing for what’s next.

David Grady is an ISACA-Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) and Chief Cybersecurity Evangelist at Verizon Business Group.