Economist Debate: “…a hyperconnected world is more rather than less secure.”

1 Aug

This is an insightful debate in the Economist, the full title being

This house believes that a hyper-connected world is more rather than less secure.

Sadly I missed the online comment period, so was not able to offer my thoughts in the debate itself.  I would have voted less secure.

My concern is the debate focuses on people, and our ability to learn and determine right from wrong, and essentially learn to make trust decisions. Good arguments were put for either side of the house.

My first observation is the debate omitted any discussion of privacy.  The Horizon Digital Economy Research conference in Nottingham (June 28, 2012) highlighted some of the fascinating research projects showing how all of this hyper-connected data is being used to good and interesting effect.  The final presentation was from Prof. Jon Crowcroft who cautioned we need to find new ways to manage the privacy of all this data (“we assume privacy by anonimisation, but big data has shown once aggregated re-identification can be trivial.”) Managing this is beyond our personal control right now.

Secondly, todays, and worse tomorrows, hyper-connected world is evolving from a people-centric Internet to the Internet of Things,  Smart Metering and Smart Cities. Here the hyper-connectivity is not mediated by people making trust decisions, but by systems controlling things such as transport infrastrastructure, building control systems and data feeds from our homes.

In such systems the role of the human trust broker will be significantly reduced. We are already seeing Industry Control Systems becoming part of this interconnected world, with what has been described as laughable security. As this evolves from just SCADA systems to Smart Cities, such as the Greenwich Peninsula, we have to make sure the appropriate security technology is built in from the start, as there is no human backstop.

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