Prediction: Social Impact of Cybersecurity Breakdowns

    Usually when I write up a post, I’m reaching out to readers in a business context – what kind of threats are affecting your networks, how that relates back to your customers, the need to provide better security training to employees, and so on.

    But I also know that my readers are like me. Your internet usage spills over from work time into personal time. Much of what I discuss here is useful information for both sides of your life, but in today’s prediction post, I want to focus a little more on the personal rather than the professional.

    I predict that in 2018, we’ll see cybersecurity issues have a serious social impact. Security breakdowns will play a factor in our elections, in our relationships, and in our way of life. I think for the first time, the public sees – or will see by the end of the year – that cybersecurity is something that we all have to care about in ways beyond identity theft and compromised credit cards.

    And in no way is that more visible than in the 2018 election cycle. Brian NeSmith, CEO and co-founder of Arctic Wolf Networks, predicted that in the coming year, it will be important for states to reassess their elections systems, stating:

    Twenty-one states were targeted during the most recent presidential election, making it clear that we can’t afford to continue collecting votes with the existing machines and lax security measures. With midterm elections on the horizon, the voting systems are due for a major upgrade and this will continue to be a big conversation in the upcoming year.

    It is not just the risk of our voting systems being hacked and manipulated. We need to take a closer look at the role social media has, as James Foster, CEO of ZeroFOX, told me in an email comment:

    The presidential elections might be over, but we can expect to see more targeted social media attacks against public sector organizations leading up to mid-term elections this year. Social media has increasingly become a channel for public organizations to connect with their constituents, making it a prime target – particularly for bot attacks. Bots are being used by actors to create discord, distribute cybercrime at scale, and disseminate political messaging.

    Of course, social media involves more than politics (although there are times you’d never know that, looking at either my personal or professional social media feeds). We depend on social media for everything, including building relationships between business and consumers. But our social media infrastructure is a major player in cybersecurity. Foster predicted that social media will become the number-one vehicle for ransomware distribution in the coming year, and because ransomware will have the ability to spread even farther through these channels, he thinks the price of ransoms will skyrocket.

    Malcolm Harkins, chief security and trust officer of Cylance, on the other hand, sees a shift in social media security conversations. While social media presents a myriad of security risks, Harkins thinks we’ll soon be including social media networks in conversations surrounding the critical infrastructure. He explained to me in an email:

    Social media was originally a fun a way to communicate and stay up to date with friends, family and the latest viral video. Along the way, as we started to also follow various influencers and use Facebook, Twitter and others as curators for our news consumption, social media became inextricably linked with how we experience and perceive our democracy. While a downed social network will not prevent society from functioning, these websites have been proven to have the ability to influence elections and shape public opinion generally, making their security essential to preserving our democracy.

    It all comes back to our democracy, doesn’t it? For that reason, I think we are going to see an uptick in the way we talk about cybersecurity and cybercriminals and cyber espionage, and how that conversation will finally move beyond how it affects us in terms of businesses to how it affects us in terms of life.

    Sue Marquette Poremba has been writing about network security since 2008. In addition to her coverage of security issues for IT Business Edge, her security articles have been published at various sites such as Forbes, Midsize Insider and Tom’s Guide. You can reach Sue via Twitter: @sueporemba

    Sue Poremba
    Sue Poremba
    Sue Poremba is freelance writer based on Central PA. She's been writing about cybersecurity and technology trends since 2008.

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