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With Each Passing Week

Following on from yesterday's e-crime congress, Mid-year Forum in London, I had a few thoughts, based on the presentations and my own ideas of the constantly evolving risks we face.

William Gibson
So let's accept that that the arrival of the 'Internet of Things' and 'Always-on' technologies is creating a constantly growing surface opportunity for the kinds of sophisticated criminals that once use to exist only in the imagination of the science-fiction author, William Gibson.

What concerns me after a decade of chairing and speaking at e-crime and info security conferences, is the shortage of new and even radical ideas and answers, as business and industry struggles to keep pace with the parabolic curve of exploitation, vulnerability and criminal opportunity.

In the middle of the biggest recession in sixty years, many businesses are even more focused on cutting their technology costs that building a resilient defense posture and the language of risk has changed very little over the last five years.

Most organisations are now on familiar terms with 'Blended threats,' 'Advanced Persistent Threats,'  'Denial of Service,' 'Spyware,' 'Crimeware,' 'Malware' and much of the depressingly expanding lexicon of e-crime.

Yesterday, we heard that 'security solutions are fractured' and new strategies are enabling hackers to hide malicious traffic where security doesn't know where to look. I'm worried we are so busy looking on one familiar direction, that we may not be keeping-up with the arms race, as it evolves in quite different directions, the subject of cyber-warfare and terrorism aside and that may now be heading towards the theft, aggregation and analysis of what is increasingly described as 'Big Data.'

The kinds of  Big Data tools that were once only available to wealthy corporations are increasingly within-range of well-funded criminal gangs who can buy a new generation of cloud-based services on demand.  to achieve their goals. What these might be or even look like, it's hard to say but if you take the underground economy as it is today and project the direction of its potential evolution, then some conclusions are unavoidable, even if these are simply speculation for now.

There's absolutely no doubt that we know a great deal about risk and exploitation, after all, it's an almost daily occurrence for large organisations today. A $20 billion dollar industry has a vast army of useful and frequently effective point solutions but the evidence clearly shows that no amount of investment in security offers any form of magic bullet against the risk of compromise or data theft from an army of highly sophisticated and motivated adversaries.

The security industry reminds me of a traditional Egyptian market. Crowded, busy and with some of the  merchandise on offer varying very little over the years; just the packaging changes colour.

If I'm not going to be back wringing my hands over the landscape of risk in another decade, much like a did with my 'Trustworthy Computing Report' in 2002, then we need to see the industry or the analysts stepping-up with some new and original ideas to challenge an arms race which I would argue we are in danger of losing, inch by inch with each passing week.

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