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\u2019s 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 \u201cmust buy\u201d stocks to political winners (and losers) to religious arguments to climate change. \u00a0Predictions now seem to be almost as popular as New Year\u2019s 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\u2019s Eve, everyone seemed to be ready to offer their views on what 2016 will bring us.And now\u2026, more people care about\u2026, (drumroll please\u2026), CYBERSECURITY!Ok, go ahead and laugh. I know this seems like a big stretch, but it is true.Kinda.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. \u00a0\u00a0\u00a0Yes, 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\u2019 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 \u2013 along with the upcoming security implications.More outlooks than ever \u2013 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 \u201cnew normal\u201d 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:\u201cWhy 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\u2019 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\u2019t fascinated by predictions. Whatever readers click on, we will be given more of. Apparently, people just like to read lists.\u201dNo doubt, it is easy to be sympathetic when reading Winkler\u2019s \u201cBah Humbug\u201d attack on our industry\u2019s 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 \u201cthought leaders\u201d 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.) \u00a0I encourage you to read the \u201cHocus-pocus\u201d article to gain a grasp of Winkler\u2019s disapproval of security predictions. Nevertheless, I\u2019m about to pour a little gasoline on this fire. Winkler\u2019s 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.\tWhy more security predictions? 1) I think this security prediction trend both reflects and affects society. It is a sign of security industry growth, maturity and future prospects of the cybersecurity industry as a whole.More cyber predictions is a sign that many more in professional technology fields as well as non-technical readers and end users are interested in the suite of topics I listed above. They care more about cybersecurity, data breaches, technology and the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market \u2013 even if they don\u2019t use those words.How does this trend reflect society? Winkler is right that readers are fascinated by predictions.Advice: Go with it, whether you like it or not. The security industry did not invent this global train that predicts the future, and we are far from the lead engine. In fact, we are closer to the caboose, but get on board the train before it leaves the station. People have been making predictions for thousands of years, and it ain\u2019t going away anytime soon.\u00a0\u00a0This trend also affects society in that security budgets, government legislation, company priorities and more are impacted by societal opinions. Better security can result if the majority is well-informed about risks and security trends and demands action on the privacy of data.\u00a0\u00a02) Online and offline life are merging as never before. With technology affecting more areas of life and crossing multiple domains, security predictions are bleeding into other areas of interest, and other areas of interest are bleeding into security. For example, national defense now includes the cyber domain, along with air, water, sea, sky and land. Therefore, defense predictions will include cyber components. Other areas, like transportation and healthcare, are similarly affected.But are security predictions really \u201cHocus-pocus?\u201d My daughter Katherine, who is an elementary education major in college, brought up an interesting point when discussing this topic. She said that the scientific method begins and ends with hypothesis. Even children learn by making educated guesses, even if the guess is wrong. Teachers encourage predictions in all subject areas as the students must understand a topic to be able to predict what is next.But what about \u201cdumb predictions\u201d by the masses? How about unqualified ideas that just waste our time? Don\u2019t we need better quality predictions from a select few? Answer: no. We all can learn this way.Besides, the experts are not always right, as we know from practical experience in sporting upsets that no expert predicts or huge snowstorms that hit, despite meteorologist predictions that say it won\u2019t happen.There are certainly times when we need a child to say, \u201cThe emperor has no clothes!\u201dAction item: Ask your children what they think will happen if certain data is not protected in the coming year.3) More people, companies, media outlets and others are trying to define themselves as your \u201ctrusted adviser\u201d within security. They want to be recognized as the top experts. This requires that we dig deeper into the best sources \u2013 look beyond specific dates to trends, analysis and signals to watch out for. Of course, as consumers of predictions, we need to make educated decisions about who offers the best advice, insights, trends and predictions. We should hold experts accountable.Just as those who do a good job of predicting economic trends and stocks and bond prices are listened to closely the next year, I expect a closer look at who is making what security predictions in the coming years.\u00a0\u00a0Each December, I read through hundreds of security predictions lists from a variety of sources that contain thousands of predictions. I can say without a hesitation, that I learn a tremendous amount each year by going through these predictions. Most of the major vendors have excellent reports and data that back up their predictions. If available, look at the detail behind the predictions.For example, Trend Micro allows you to zoom down into more detail behind their simple one-line predictions like the one that Winkler criticized. Here\u2019s an excerpt of what\u2019s said related to one prediction: \u201cA customer-grade smart device failure will be lethal.\u201d2015 saw incidents that involved hacked or insecure devices, ranging from baby monitors, smart TVs, and connected cars. Even as users have increasingly become aware of the security risks of connecting appliances and devices to the Internet, the public interest in smartifying just about everything will continue to peak. Smart-connected home device shipments are projected to grow at a compound annual rate of 67% in the next five years, and are expected to hit almost 2 billion units shipped in 2019\u2014faster than the growth of smartphones and tablet devices. Given the diversity of operating systems and lack of regulation for these smart devices, there remains to be no signs of a possibility of a large-scale hacking attack. WiFi and Bluetooth networks, however, will become polluted and clogged as devices fight for connections. This will, in turn, push mission-critical tasks to suffer. However, the likelihood that a failure in consumer-grade smart devices will result in physical harm is greater. As more drones encroach on public air space for various missions, more devices are used for healthcare-related services, and more home and business appliances rely on an Internet connection to operate, the more likely we will see an incident involving a device malfunction, a hack, or a misuse that will trigger conversation on creating regulations on device production and usage. How can you benefit from security predictions?1) Gain industry knowledge, understand overall trends and expand your horizons beyond one stovepipe or topic. Security predictions help you understand industry trends and help you grow in your knowledge \u2013 if you do your homework and read the supporting research that usually comes from major vendors.Remember that the actual date the event happens is less important than trends, patterns and even repetition of an item. Sure, these people or vendors are predicting that it will happen in 2016. It could certainly be 2017 or 2018. But the trend is still valid \u2013 especially if many top vendors predict the same thing.Meanwhile, we reward those who make unique predictions that no one else thought of if they come true. So don\u2019t always penalize bad predictions, since no one is perfect.2) Use the free advice, direction, insights and annual reports provided by many. Are some these predictions just marketing? Sure. But a lot of it is very good analysis of where we have been and where we are going.And this has been going on for years. Gartner, Forrester and many other services typically charge for the advice and predictions that many top vendors give away for free in their annual prediction reports. I am not saying you should not use those services for expert advice, if you like what they offer, but understand that there is value in many of these free annual reports from companies like FireEye, Symantec, McAfee, Websense, Sophos and others.3) Use predictions as an opportunity to educate others. Get the word out on cybersecurity \u2013 whether that is to your company, your family or your community group. Are you bringing problems or solutions? We claim we want to educate end users on cybersecurity, so educate!Or, why not offer your own predictions? Join the party, after you do your homework.Here\u2019s an area where I think we can all agree. Even if you think most annual security predictions are lemons, turn them into lemonade! Make the most out of the situation.I often get asked questions about dramatic security predictions that friends and family hear on TV. The questions come up in unexpected places \u2013 like church or at extended family events. Usually, someone has heard some prediction like, \u201cA Cyber Pearl Harbor is coming!\u201d They want to talk about it with a person they know and trust.When such situations occur, we can either dismiss the comment and walk away, or offer an appropriate, kind response in whatever way you think is best. We have a choice to make at that moment. Hopefully we have the time to be wise, helpful and informative. Even if you disagree with the prediction, offer some examples of what you think will happen.Final Thoughts Here\u2019s a new prediction for you: Even more security predictions next December 2016 (about 2017). Some predictions will be good, some not so good. Some general, some very specific. Some irrelevant. Some (who knows what).And guess what? Not all the industry thought leaders will be right, and not all of the wannabee novices will be wrong with their predictions.But isn\u2019t that the truth about most areas of life? The Internet is giving us more voices, and we need to learn who we really trust and turn to. Who will we listen to moving forward?Bottom line, the more the security and technology industries grow, the more predictions we will have. From the Internet of Things, to new technologies to robots to self-driving cars, do you really think we will be talking about security and privacy less in 2020? I don\u2019t.\u00a0\u00a0Predictions are not new, and they are not going away. In fact, they are just getting started.Congratulations security industry, and welcome to center ring in this three-ring circus. Yes, it is a very big circus, but that\u2019s where all the action is.