It is not even Thanksgiving (quite yet) and already the predictions for 2012 are starting to trickle out. Articles written by industry experts trying to predict what trends will shape their industry in the coming year are usually good for the expert’s business and not much else.
But the first one I’ve seen is pretty informative. It was crafted by Mel Morris, the chief technology officer at Webroot, a company that provides internet security products for consumers, enterprises and small and medium businesses. Mr. Morris peered into his crystal ball and came up with seven predictions for the internet security industry in 2012.
It is, of course, impossible to tell at this point if any of his predictions will come to pass. That said, some of them are especially applicable to small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and InformationWeek did a nice job breaking the original list of 7 predictions down to 4 items that SMBs should be aware of heading into 2012:
1. Masses will migrate to cloud platforms. Morris tied this prediction to Apple’s recent iCloud launch and said it will make online applications the public norm rather than a trend. Continued consumerization will, in turn, force IT pros to deal with cloud applications–and any inherent security concerns–whether they want to or not.
Morris isn’t talking about things like Web-based email–already somewhat old-fashioned in 2011–but file sharing, storage, and a much broader range of tools. Many tech-savvy SMBs are well ahead of this curve, but there are no doubt firms that have stayed away for security or other reasons. A potential silver lining: If a broader range of cloud platforms goes mainstream, then (hopefully) there’ll be more onus on vendors to invest in security–if for no other reason than the increasing cost of a breach and the ensuing PR fallout.
2. Your smartphone will be a target. Morris gives a general pat on the back to the security industry here, saying that because it has done a good job of protecting traditional endpoints, the bad guys will gold-rush the mobile frontier. “We will see an increase in Android and iPhone attacks: rogue apps, malicious links, and spyware targeted at smartphones and tablets,” he said. “It’s all about data, and business users and consumers alike store an abundance of highly sensitive and poorly guarded information on their mobile devices.” SMBs need a mobile arm to their security plans that deals with both the devices themselves and the apps that run on them. Speaking of which…
3. Legitimate applications will be used for illegitimate activities. The cynic might say: “Duh.” Just this week, Facebook–how many of your employees aren’t using it?–got hit with a widespread attack. Morris is more concerned about the vast, growing universe of mobile apps in use on employee smartphones and tablets–whether those are company-supported or not. “A simple glance at an application like Plane Finder illustrates the vast amount of data that is at anyone’s fingertips,” he said.
4. Our weakest link will be strengthened. Morris has faith in humanity: He thinks we’ll get smarter about security practices in 2012: “Indifference toward security will diminish.” That’s an interesting one for SMBs–their innate agility and leaner staff should make it easier to educate users on both the fundamentals and evolving problems. Yet SMBs–just like much larger concerns–run into problems all of the time, often as the result of human error. But it’s not like this will just magically happen once the ball drops at midnight on January 1. It requires a philosophical shift–one that need not depend on a big budget. Is Morris right–will we get smarter next year? Let’s hope so.