If there’s one thing we’ve learned from IT-related events over the past year, it’s that our ever-increasing connectivity is creating more risk: of services and applications failing due to IT events, or as a result of cyberattacks; and of sensitive data being breached by malicious parties. So what we can expect to happen in our connected world over the coming year, and how should we prepare for those events to mitigate their impact? Here are my predictions for the security and visibility challenges that lie ahead. 

1. IoT Risks Are Here To Stay

As the reliance on the IoT grows, so will the strain and ultimately the potential danger associated with hundreds or even thousands of connected devices having the potential to be compromised and turned into bots. These growing risks, and a general lack of Wi-Fi protection will create a constant stream of vulnerabilities, which are more likely to be repurposed. The expansion of the attack surface enables new risks to your enterprise network. If you’re working remotely and on an unprotected, public network you put your entire organisation at risk from hackers, whether it’s from your data or unknowingly roping your device to be part of a botnet. 

2. Data Privacy Is The New Tech Emergency

The panic is setting in as today’s data-oriented companies fear non-compliance with Europe’s upcoming GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which will go into effect on May 25, 2018. With this, the focus on data privacy will reach new heights. It is a complex task to protect personal data when the network is everywhere as a result of the push to the cloud.  Using the public cloud takes the data out of your on-premises data centre and puts it into the hands of your provider. Breaches and government tampering have brought the consequences of a carefree approach to personal data to light.  Years of bad passwords and freehandedness with personal information has guaranteed that we have lost all control over our data. Awareness of this problem has finally reached critical mass. While it is too late to stop our data from leaving our hands, we can still make sure the ones who control it (such as Equifax) do more to keep it safe.  2018 should be the year that we finally make data privacy a serious part of our lives. 

3. Billy In Sales Is Your Biggest Risk

When it comes to security, today’s technology tools are not the issue. Significant advancements in firewalls, web application security, and network protection solutions have taken the industry pretty far, but employee behaviours have not. The assumption still exists that ‘IT will take care of things’ if I click on a bad link or leave my computer access open on unattended devices. Hackers are quick to gain access to your network thanks to Billy’s lack of attention to security. Billy still believes the responsibility to recognise and resist cyberattacks and phishing expedition’s lies in the hands of back-office security teams. Breaches will continue to rise in 2018 as a result.

4. The Connected Car Isn’t Just A Car Anymore

IHS Markit forecasts that by 2023, worldwide sales of connected cars will reach 72.5 million units, up from 24 million in 2015. That means in just over 8 years, almost 69% of passenger vehicles sold will be exchanging data with external sources turning the automobile into an advanced network. In 2018, the car will transition from a mode of transportation to a connected information hub, and this means that systems such as road tariffs and tolls, navigation histories, and vehicle monitoring systems will be targeted.  Continual performance monitoring and system validation will take on new meaning in 2018 as auto vendors clamber to address these mounting risks. 

5. Edge Computing Is The Icing On The Cloud Cake

The cloud is now a mainstream IT model and organisations are realising they need better cloud security and performance management solutions. Cloud-washed solutions that were originally designed for the data centre just do not cut it. A modern form of distributed, decentralised computing is needed to add value to the cloud, and that new model is called edge computing. Edge computing improves the overall efficiency of the cloud by keeping technology resources like compute, storage, and networking, closer to users. We will see more enterprises use edge design patterns in their infrastructure architectures to better leverage the benefits of the cloud, without sacrificing speed or reliability.

6. 5G Will Create New Opportunities, Capabilities & Businesses

5G will come faster than predicted, and it will cause big disruptions as it becomes the beginning of a new era for connectivity. Even in its early stages, there has been heavy and widespread investment into 5G, with many providers and organisations already committing resources to test the new equipment, technology, and uses for 5G. In fact, in a recent survey, it was revealed that 96% of large technology companies plan to leverage 5G and 83% will have 5G solutions deployed within the next 24 months. The transition from 4G to 5G will present new business opportunities, will make connectivity much easier and will usher in a new wave of technology and growth for many organisations that otherwise would not be possible.

7. Welcome Our New Bot Overlords

Apps used to be king. From mobile to web apps, every task had a corresponding “There’s an App for that!” Now we have Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook among the number of companies who have placed their bets on a Bot-driven future. The underappreciated benefit of this is that it will make networking simpler. No longer will tasks be sent to hundreds of different apps for simple microtasks. Instead everything will be sent to the Bot. Points of failure for outside connection will be easier to find and IT will better be able to keep their companies online.

8. Public IT Infrastructure Is Going To Become Your Job

Data centres do not live in the office closet anymore; they may not even be within 100 miles of the nearest major office, let alone the remote branch offices. At home workers and road warriors make up an increasingly large percentage of the workforce – meaning daily tasks depend on servers and networks that do not belong to you. We have seen the consequences of that with major incidents like the AWS outage in March 2017, where an outage in a single Amazon cloud data centre shut down several major online services including Quora, Business Insider and parts of Slack. Many organisations have bought into the hyperscale cloud model and will be at the mercy of these providers to maintain the availability they need. IT teams need to establish more control over their cloud data traffic to prevent security breaches, protect customer experience and productivity. They will need to establish greater visibility into their clouds as they become the dominant mode of communications and processing.

9. AI Finally Releases The Value Of Software-Defined Everything

Artificial intelligence (AI) is definitely a contender for the top tech buzzword of the year, and for good reason. It has enabled great strides in how businesses handle data everywhere from their security teams to their HR departments. Adoption and innovation in this space is not going to slow down anytime soon. The next big area where we will see investment in AI is the networking space. SD-everything, cloud, and globalisation have sidelined the hands-on operating practices IT teams have traditionally used to maintain their networks. Innovative providers are now building machine learning and AI into their network platforms, effectively tailoring network performance as needed, to meet the requirements of the services and applications the network carries. As this trend continues, enterprises will need to maintain the same level of visibility into packet-level data they had with hardware-based networking to take advantage of the possibilities.