While the year ahead will not bring about a sea change, slowly the tide will turn and more people will start looking for and implementing cyber solutions. This presents myriad business opportunities.
Here are a few predictions.
Privacy and security will become marketing tools:
Consumers will start choosing companies, products and services that offer them the anti-Facebook, anti-Google proposition: Do business with us, and your data and your privacy will be respected and protected.
SIM-jacking or SIM swap fraud will increase:
This sophisticated attack allows a hacker to steal your cell phone number and with that, any account associated with it. It's still a relatively uncommon exploit, but if you are visibly in possession of something hackers want--whether it's a cool "OG" handle on social media, cryptocurrency or the codes to launch nuclear war--the assaults on attractive targets will increase in 2019.
Cryptocurrency retreat will make ransomware less profitable:
The gold rush for bitcoin and similar currencies went hand-in-hand with a plague of ransomware: Bitcoin's peak at close to $20,000 in value in 2017 coincided with a 400% increase in ransomware attacks. As the exchange rates for cyptocurrencies continue to decline, ransomware attack on investors will become less profitable.
Ransomware will go mainstream:
The target may be individual web surfing habits or completely random, but one thing is certain: More and more consumers will be hit with ransomware attacks this coming year.
Increased legislation will make the web less "world-wide":
The GDPR, Australia's encryption-breaking legislation, Google's talks with China for building a censorship-friendly version of its search engine, California's upcoming privacy legislation, and others (including the newly introduced Data Care Act) could mean more fenced-off areas in what used to be a comparatively location-agnostic internet.
Better identity management solutions:
With Microsoft and Mastercard's identity management products and services joining the party, identity and privacy protection solutions will experience a boom. We can expect even more competition in this area from other major technology players. Identity theft has become the third certainty in life after death and taxes, and consumer-friendly solutions to protecting against it will profit nicely in 2019.
Facebook will continue to off-gas scandal, and shed users:
The corporate culture that brought us Russian election interference, Cambridge Analytica, and a seemingly endless parade of data leaks, revelations, and unpopular business practices comes straight from the top. Unless Facebook cleans house and gets an all-new senior management (or Mark Zuckerberg has an A Christmas Carol experience), expect the bad privacy news to keep coming for the foreseeable future. The result: consumers will continue to spend less time on the company's eponymous site.
Anonymized email will spread:
Your email address is an important piece of personally identifying information, yet many sites demand that you use it as your user name when you register a new account. This year, consumers will look for companies that anonymize email addresses that point back to a single email address, thereby reducing the consumer's attackable surface.
Backup data storage will become more universal:
There are still people who ride motorcycles without helmets, and there are still folks who don't backup their data regularly, but whether or not we're talking about storage on the cloud or an external drive, that's going to become less prevalent in 2019.
People will stop thinking blockchain is the solution to everything (and perhaps will focus on what a waste of electricity it is):
Blockchain technology may have some potentially exciting applications, but as we've witnessed this past year, it's not really ready for prime time. Case in point: When beverage company Long Island Iced Tea added "blockchain" to its name, its stock soared by 200%--and a few weeks later it tanked. 2019 should bring a more sober assessment of the advantages of blockchain technology as well as its drawbacks.
Passwords will continue to be daisy-chained and simple:
Despite all the warnings about password security and not re-using them for multiple sites, people are still choosing weak passwords and using them for multiple accounts: "123456" has been the most common password for five years running, with "password" as a close second. With 2-Factor Authentication continuing to give a false sense of security, we should expect to see more of the same.
Use of password managers will increase:
While it is true that passwords will continue to be mind-numbingly easy to crack, 2019 will also be the year consumer hygiene goes mainstream, so you will be hearing more conversations about password managers in the break room this year, and you'll know more people using them.
BYOD will be banned or more strictly policed in workplaces:
BYOD, or bring your own device, is a security problem. What companies gain in the short term by allowing employees to use their own connectable devices, they lose in the long term by increasing the attackable surface available to hackers. With every app on every device presenting a potential security vulnerability, expect to see more workplaces cracking down on and/or managing BYOD.
Free VPNs will be the new privacy scam:
VPNs are gaining popularity as consumers become more cyber-aware. The cost-averse will gravitate toward "free" VPN services, not realizing that the entirety of their internet data could potentially be sold to third parties or leaked to criminals. Unless customers are willing to pay for a subscription VPN service, they're going to keep proving the old adage: if the service is free, you're the product.
There is another item that came to mind while thinking about the year to come, but this is a collection of predictions for 2019, not a wish list. That said, it's the time of year to make wishes, so here goes nothing. May 2019 be the year that the government and the people together demand that businesses collecting personal data act as fiduciaries rather than goldminers.