And how they will impact your business in 2017
The last year was full of technology trends and innovations. Some were exhilarating to watch evolve (think the rise of new enterprise communication tools, and the growth and advancement of cloud-based applications). Others were scary in both their scope and prevalence (like the rise of Ransomware as a cybercrime industry and massive data hacks that exposed billions of individuals personal information). Many of these trends will continue into the New Year and some could have a profound impact on your business or organization. So here’s our roundup of some of the tech trends to watch in 2017 and a few suggestions on how to prepare for them.
This is a holdup! Ransomware has been on the rise for the past several years and has become a multimillion-dollar business for cyber criminals. The cryptovirology attacks have also become more sophisticated, using a seemingly innocuous link or email attachment to take control of your computer and its data, demanding payment to unlock or decrypt the information. Often the malicious script or applications are designed to use a single computer as an access point to encrypt data across an organization’s network. (Check out The Atlantic’s description of a ransomware attack and the business model behind them.)
Ransomware attacks are up an estimated five fold in 2016, resulting in an estimated $75 billion a year in financial impact, due to expenses and lost productivity. The Ransomware targets are evolving too. While individuals and small and medium business are often easy targets, the financial and healthcare industries are seeing increasing attacks on their information systems, a trend that is likely to continue.
What can you do to prepare for prevalence of Ransomware in 2017? 1. Train employees in best practices regarding email and web browsing. 2. Prepare and implement a comprehensive recovery process. 3. Build in redundant and isolated backup solutions.
Worms, viruses, bugs and more. Ransomware, as frightening as it is, is simply a subset of the larger malware family. From viruses and worms to spyware, email and phishing are experiencing once again a rise as the preferred method of dissemination, as the move to HTML5 has decreased the effectiveness of advertising and exploit kits for cyber criminals. Therefore, educating employees on how to recognize and avoid potentially dangerous emails is a key first line of defense. (Check out our SlideShare or video for some useful tips on recognizing fraudulent or phishing emails.)
Related to the threat of malware, the increasing numbers of non-computer devices connected to the internet (colloquially, the Internet of Things or IoT) are increasing our vulnerability to hacks and attacks. So while it’s wonderful to be able to control your digital office thermostat from home, make sure firmware updates for that thermostat are a regular part of your IT security protocols.
Data as the new currency. 2016 has also demonstrated that data, at all levels and industries, is valuable for both cybercriminals and hackers and the businesses and individuals that risk the loss or leakage of that data. Last year saw the disclosure of the largest and most impactful data hacks on record. From Yahoo’s breach that impacted one billion records, to the hack of the DNC, DCCC, and Podesta emails by alleged Russian hackers, 2016 demonstrated that the scale and scope of hacking is far beyond what most of us imagine on a daily basis. And the targets of such attacks are broadening, from government agencies and healthcare providers to utility suppliers and more. Wired Magazine provides a roundup of last year’s biggest hacks.
Password is not the new password. Unique, complex password phrases, password managers that generate (and organize) infinite unmemorable passwords, two-factor authentication. The rules keep changing on us for how to best lockdown our online presence. And the reality is that a long complex password probably wouldn’t have protected you from most of the data breeches listed above. But there are still a few key rules that have emerged in the past year to keep in mind as you secure yours and your companies password protocols.
- Longer is better: use at least 12 – 15 characters. Administrators should call on employees to create more complex passwords that they change less often.
- Complexity is still important, avoid simple patterns.
- Don’t use the same password across multiple sites.
- Don’t be predictable. Star Wars was a popular password theme last year – chose a different movie inspiration and avoid just using a character’s name.
Using a password manager can be incredibly useful and provide an extra layer of security. However, for the best security, recognize that passwords aren’t sufficient on their own. They should be a part of multi-factor authentication that these days often involve biometrics. You should also be conscious of the web sites you’re using and what steps they’re taking to help secure your online information. Those that are hosting important personal information should at the very least be requiring two-factor authentication. Want to (hopefully!) feel a bit better about your password choices? Check out last year’s list of the worst passwords.
A Silver Lining. Last year saw a rise in organizations, especially small and medium-sized businesses, adopting cloud-based services. This trend is likely to continue in the New Year and is driven at least in part by the desire (and need) for cloud-based backup and archiving, the growing presence of employee owned mobile devices in the workplace, and increasing use of mobile email and collaborative applications. Business and data analytics and data storage and management are leading cloud applications that businesses of all sizes are pursuing.
The cloud is a fundamentally disruptive technology that represents a major shift in the way we understand, organize and design technology. Therefore, cloud migration, platforms management and applications are demanding an increasing portion of IT budgets. But new payment models for cloud services also mean that companies and organizations can take advantage of increased savings. While movement to the cloud will reach its highest level yet in 2017, similar problems will continue to pose a challenge, namely security, performance and management.
“Ambient listening” and other intra-office communicating. Workplace oriented chat programs (enterprise social) are a growing part of team workflow. Products include the emerging Workplace for Facebook and Microsoft Teams, as well as the more established Slack. In fact, Slack is the fastest growing workplace software the world has ever seen. These relatively new chat programs are growing in popularity because they provide centralized communication with colleagues through instant messages and chat rooms across mobile and desktop platforms. A side effect is that messaging services reduce the amount of time workers spend on email. Whether you think this is a valuable result or not, it is notable especially at a time when email has proven to be a markedly unsecure way to communicate.
Part of Slack’s unique design is that it groups messaging from people that work together so it provides “ambient awareness” about project scope that can have an impact on business. Also, it facilitates communication in an era when people are often not working in the same geographic space and allows workers to keep in touch with their colleagues with much less effort and formality than email. According to the technology news site TechCrunch, “When you combine mobility with social software and the cloud — and a geographically dispersed workforce — it may simply be that the time has finally come for more widespread adoption of these kinds of tools.”
The Gig Economy. The last few years have seen an ever-evolving labor market with IT skills in high demand. Three areas seem to be the biggest need for many growing organizations: security, big data and cloud technologies. And IT workers with these specialized skills are often opting for the flexibility and autonomy of the gig economy. However, the emerging job landscape demonstrates that every job is in some way an IT job, a “logical evolution” of the mantra that every company is an IT company.
Another related trend in IT hiring is the crowdsourcing of labor through platforms like TopCoder, Taskrabbit, Freelancer.com or Upwork. Posting detailed work requests on crowdsourcing platforms like these, allows organizations to scale up or down quickly depending on their needs. However, organizational leadership will have to become much more involved in the development of IT infrastructure to make the best, and most secure, use of this model.