Why more security predictions and how can you benefit?

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Americans love baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and predictions.

In fact, if we really like something a lot, and especially if we have a growing interest in some new area of life, it’s not long before we start thinking about what the future holds within that area.

And the United States is not alone. All around the world, billions of people enjoy offering personal opinions, educated guesses and/or listening to expert commentary on what they think will happen next in topics ranging from sports scores to “must buy” stocks to political winners (and losers) to religious arguments to climate change.  

Predictions now seem to be almost as popular as New Year’s resolutions. There were many hot topics that got plenty of predictions over the recent holidays, including the ongoing battles against terrorists, college football bowl games and NFL playoff scores and even where the nation is going next with guns. Of course, since 2016 is an election year, there was plenty of discussion on who will win the primary elections in Iowa and New Hampshire in February.

But in case you think only experts share their viewpoints, look around you.

Over the recent holidays, one only needed to flip through a few cable channels to hear analysis on how current events would impact the coming year. From influential prognosticators to the man on the street who had traveled to New York to see the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, everyone seemed to be ready to offer their views on what 2016 will bring us.

And now…, more people care about…, (drumroll please…), CYBERSECURITY!

Ok, go ahead and laugh. I know this seems like a big stretch, but it is true.


Actually, what people all over the world really do care much more about are topics like: identity theft, data breaches, owners of Ashley Madison accounts, personal and professional emails getting hacked, our reliable utilities potentially not working at home, hackers stealing money from bank accounts, biometric data being lost to foreigners, cars that have their brakes turned off by hackers, baby monitors that are used to send (unwanted) messages from bad guys on the other side of the world, hospitals that lose personal health records, and much, much, more.    

Yes, with the surging growth in cyberspace, WiFi, apps, robots, drones, new technologies, virtual worlds, global games, terrorists with social media accounts, the Internet of Things (IoT) and nation-state hacking, online data security has become the Achilles’ heel of the Internet. A growing number of people want to know about new apps available for their smartphones and their data in the cloud – along with the upcoming security implications.

More outlooks than ever – but not everyone likes cybersecurity predictions

I have been monitoring (and participating in) the security prediction market for more than a decade, and there is no doubt the breadth and depth of security predictions continues to grow.

[ MORE PREDICTIONS: Top 15 security predictions for 2016 ]

Near the end of the year, almost every security blogger feels compelled to offer their coming year predictions. Large (and even midsized) security and technology companies dedicate extensive resources to packaging and marketing their predictions. Meanwhile, most startup company executives offer their crystal ball forecasts to try and get more media attention.

For reference, I chronicled a large number of recent security industry and media cybersecurity predictions into this summary blog: The Top 16 Security Predictions for 2016.

But not everyone is happy about (or eagerly participates in) this annual holiday prediction-fest. Some security industry thought-leaders think cybersecurity predictions are getting out of hand and this “new normal” is basically a waste of time and resources. For example, check out this Computerworld article from last week entitled: Hocus-pocus! The stupidity of cybersecurity predictions.

Ira Winkler writes:

“Why do these trite and useless lists proliferate? The media shares much of the blame. Columnists have to write stories, even during those end-of-year holidays when little in the way of actual tech news is being generated. Meanwhile, vendors’ PR people scramble to get their executives to come up with something, package the crap they come up with, and pitch it to any publication they can think of.

But little of it would get published if readers weren’t fascinated by predictions. Whatever readers click on, we will be given more of. Apparently, people just like to read lists.”

No doubt, it is easy to be sympathetic when reading Winkler’s “Bah Humbug” attack on our industry’s fascination with annual security predictions. I certainly agree that keeping score of the best predictors makes sense, and who can argue against the reality that many of the same predictions keep showing up?

And yes, some of these predicted security events have already happened, although we need to keep in mind that the “thought leaders” who make some of these predictions often forecast that smaller incidents will happen on a broader scale. (For example, power outages caused by hacking that affect a few houses is certainly different than an entire region losing power from hacking.)  

I encourage you to read the “Hocus-pocus” article to gain a grasp of Winkler’s disapproval of security predictions. Nevertheless, I’m about to pour a little gasoline on this fire. Winkler’s analysis on security predictions misses several larger, and much more important, points. It also fails to show where this trend is going and why you should care.

Yes - I believe more security predictions can be a good thing, if you know why this trend is happening and how to benefit from the research, analysis and insights from others.

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