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Opinion: Our reliance on technology requires proactive cyber defense

Sep. 30, 2013 - 04:36PM   |  
By KEVIN COLEMAN   |   Comments
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We live in a technologically advanced world with an accelerated rate of advancement. Many of the advances in technology are dual use — serving our military and intelligence communities as well as society in general.

If you take a quick look around you will see how technology has become ingrained in nearly every aspect of our lives. Behavioral studies suggest that the intensity of our technologically advanced society has made all of us less patient and forgetful.

Others say our reliance on technology has created what has been called a “technology addiction.” Don’t laugh — technology addiction is actually addressed on the Mental Health pages of WebMD! The news and snip-its about what technological advancements await us feed this addiction. We want what the technology that is just over the horizon provides even though some studies suggest on average we only use about 20 percent of the technologies capabilities.

This longing and rapid adoption has benefited our nation; however, there is a downside. Some researchers believe that our nation’s addiction to technology is our Achilles’ heel due to its vulnerability to attack.

This zest for technology is what has driven the advances that we now see just ahead. A few years ago cars that drive themselves were considered science fiction. Yet today we see cars parking themselves and demonstrations of self navigating vehicles.

Everyone remembers the futuristic eyewear worn by LT. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge on Star Trek. Now we have Google Glass. Just last month, Samsung publicly confirmed reports that it was investing heavily in “wearable computers” and we should not forget the unconfirmed reports of Apple’s plans for and development of the iWatch.

These are just a few of the technological advances that will go mainstream in the next few years. At this point, it is hard to imagine that most of the new technologies, products and services that will emerge over the next five years will not have some integrated computing with network communications capabilities. In fact, some believe that the slow economic recovery has created pent-up technological capabilities that will shortly emerge from the research-and-development labs into real world applications that will be even more surprising and addictive.

We have become extremely reliant on the power of technology. We used to ask, “What does the new technology do for me?” Now we ask, “What can I do with this new technology.” That is a big change.

Technology is an engine of economic growth, continuous service, entertainment and our national security. Those factors and our reliance is what has created the concerns.

Consider for a moment a cyber attack that disrupts the technologies we all have integrated into our lives. Disrupted GPS, erratic cellphone service, no test messages or email for hours on end and unstable Internet connection are real possibilities given the hostile intent and growing capabilities of cyber adversaries. There is little doubt that several individuals and organizations would find it extremely difficult to adapt to any of those situations, much less all of them at the same time.

Society as a whole must plan for change and risk with the adoption of these future technologies. Part of the planning process must address the rapidly evolving cyber threat environment. This industry must move from using a reactive model that treats security as an afterthought to a proactive model where scientists and engineers design and build cybersecurity into the technologies and products of the future. That would be the development of what has been called a secure design curriculum.

Nobody knows what groundbreaking technologies are hidden in the world’s research labs just as no one knows what new cyber attack techniques will be used to target the next set of technologies we become dependent upon.

One thing is certain: The security of these technologies is far too important and there is too much at stake not to make this change now and design security IN rather that bolting it on afterward.

Kevin Coleman is a senior fellow at the Technolytics Institute and former chief strategist at Netscape

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