Top 5 Security Predictions for 2016

It's that time of year again, when the retrospective and predictive blogs come out of the closet, just before the Christmas festivities begin.  This time last year, the 2015 predictions were an interesting selection of both consumer and enterprise challenges, with a focus on:

  • Customer Identity Management
  • The start of IoT security awareness
  • Reduced Passwords on Mobile
  • Consumer Privacy
  • Cloud Single Sign On

In retrospect, a pretty accurate and ongoing list.  Consumer related identity (cIAM) is hot on most organisation's lips, and whilst the password hasn't died (and probably never will) there are more people using things like swipe login and finger print authentication than ever before.

But what will 2016 bring?

Mobile Payments to be Default for Consumers

2015 has seen the rise in things like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay hitting the consumer high street with venom.  Many retail outlets now provide the ability to "tap and pay" using a mobile device, with many banks also offering basic contactless payments on debit cards.  The limit for such contactless payments, was recently upped to ¬£30 in September, making the obvious choice for busy interactions such as supermarkets and coffee shops.  This increased emphasis on the mobile representing an identity, will put pressure on mobile's ability for secure credential storage and the potential for fraud and payment data theft.

Internet of Things Data Sharing to be Tackled

IoT is everywhere.  The "web of things", the "internet of everything", each week a new term is coined.  The simple fact is that millions more devices are coming on line, and are generating, collecting and aggregating data from a range of sources - both personal and machine related.  That data needs to be effectively shared using a transparent consent model.  Individuals are more accurately aware than ever before, that their data can be used in a myriad of different ways - some for service improvement but some maliciously.  3rd party data sharing is inevitable, if the true benefits of the IoT world are to be realised - but that data sharing requires real consent and revocation capabilities using standards such as User Managed Access and others.

EU General Data Protection Regulation Brings New Organisational Challenges

The recent change in the EU GDPR, will bring challenges for many organisations looking to leverage the power of digital transformation or harness the power of cloud.  The new EU changes, provide a clear message, regarding the use and management of user data, with powerful fines now acting as a large incentive for compliance and process redesign.  Many end users and consumers are becoming fully aware of how powerful their data can become, when combined with things like tracking, marketing or analytics and full and proper control over that data should be made available.

An Increase in Device Pairing & Sharing

The increase in house hold and consumer devices with "smart" capabilities is leading to a more "pin and pair" ecosystems for things like smart TVs, connected cars, home heating systems, fridges and more.  The ability for a device to be linked to a physical identity, brings a brand new set of use cases for identity impersonation, data sharing and personalisation.  The ability for a TV to be linked to a physical person and not just a household for example, brings interesting use cases for personalised content delivery.  The pairing of devices will probably leverage existing authorization standards such as OAuth2, where quick and simple revocation will help to increase confidence in how physical identities can be linked and revoked from devices.

Every Company Will Have a Blockchain R&D Team

The Bitcoin revolution seems to have hit the top of the "peak of inflated expectations", with the effective delivery still some 5 to 10 years away.  However, the capabilities of the blockchain architecture are starting to visit new non-currency related use cases, such as intellectual property protection, art copyrighting, access request cataloguing and more.  The interest in the distributed and hashed nature of the blockchain, make new transparent data sharing and decision point architectures a potential weapon in the security architect's arsenal.  Whilst many of the capabilities and features may need implementing, many organisations will be looking on with keen eyes, to see if this ecosystem can start to deliver on it's early promise.

Will be interesting to see what 2016 brings.  One thing is for sure, that information security has never been such a concern for many organisations in both the private and public sector.

Happy holidays and see you in 2016!

By Simon Moffatt

Protect Data Not Devices?

"Protect Data Not Devices", seems quite an intriguing proposition given the increased number of smart phone devices in circulation and the issues that Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) seems to be causing, for heads of security up and down the land.  But here is my thinking.  The term 'devices' now covers a multitude of areas.  Desktop PC's of course (do they still exist?!), laptops and net books, smart phones and not-so-smart phones, are all the tools of the trade, for accessing the services and data you own, or want to consume, either for work or for pleasure.  The flip side of that is the servers, mainframes, SAN's, NAS's and cloud based infrastructures that store and process data.  The consistent factor is obviously the data that is being stored and managed, either in-house or via outsourced services.

Smarter the Device, The More Reliant We Become

This is a pretty obvious statement and doesn't just apply to phones.  As washing machines became more efficient and dishwashers became cheaper and more energy saving, we migrated in droves, allowing our time to be spent on other essential tasks.  The same is true for data accessing devices.  As phones morphed in to micro desktop PC's, we now rely on them for email, internet access, gaming, social media, photography and so on.  Some people even use this thing called the telephone on them.  Crazy.  As the features and complexity ramp up, we no longer need another device for listening to music, taking pictures or accessing Facebook.  Convenience and service provision increases, as does the single-point-of-failure syndrome and our reliance on them being available 99.999% of the time, up to date and online.

Smarter the Device, The Less Important It Becomes

Now this next bit seems a bit of a paradox.  As the devices becomes smarter, greater emphasis is placed on the data and services those devices access.  For example.  A fancy Facebook client is pretty useless if only 100 people use Facebook.  A portable camera is just that, unless you have a social outlet for which to distribute the images.  The smartness of the devices themselves, is actually driven by the services and data they need to access.  Smartphones today come with a healthy array of encryption features, remote backup, remote data syncing for things like contacts, pictures and music, as well device syncing software like Dropbox.  How much data is actually specifically related to the device?  In theory nothing.  Zip.  Lose your phone and everything can be flashed back down in a few minutes, assuming it was set up correctly.  Want to replace a specific model and brand with a model of equivalent specification from a different vendor?  Yep you can do that too, as long as you can cope with a different badge on the box.  Feature differentiation is becoming smaller, as the technology becomes more complex.

Data Access versus Data Storage

As more and more services become out sourced (or to use the buzz of being moved to the 'cloud'), the storage part becomes less of a worry for the consumer.  The consumer could easily be an individual or an organisation.  Backup, syncing, availability, encryption and access management all fall to the responsibility of the outsourced data custodian.  Via astute terms and conditions and service level agreements, the consumer shifts responsibility across to the data custodian and service provider.

The process of accessing that data then starts to fall partly on the consumer.  How devices connect to a network, how users authenticate to a device and so on, all fall to the device custodian.  Access traffic encryption will generally require a combination of efforts from both parties.  For example, the data custodian will manage SSL certificates on their side, whilst the consumer has a part to play too.

So to slightly contradict my earlier point (!), this is where the device is really the egress point to the data access channel, and so therefore requires important security controls to access the device.  The device itself is still only really a channel to the data at the other end, but once an individual (or piece of software, malicious or not) has access to a device, they then in turn can potentially open access channels to outsourced data.  The device access is what should be protected, not necessarily the tin itself.

As devices become smarter and service providers more complex, that egress point moves substantially away from the old private organisational LAN or equivalent.  The egress point is the device regardless of location on a fixed or flexible network.

Data will become the ultimate prize not necessarily the devices that are used to access it.

By Simon Moffatt