The cybersecurity industry is a rapidly changing beast in which the good guys and the bad guys are constantly trying to one up each other. As soon as an exploit is discovered, white hat developers scramble to find a fix while the black hats try to take advantage of it for profit - or sometimes just for fun.
It's perhaps no surprise to know that these cyber-battles are happening at a larger scale and at a higher volume than ever before. In fact, cyber security has even become a major talking point in the mainstream media and in government think tanks over the last twelve months or so thanks to the high-profile WannaCry cyber-attack that was called "the biggest ransomware offensive in history".
All of this combines into an exciting, dynamic industry in which the only true constant is change. That said, there are several trends that are on the rise and look set to continue, and that's what we're going to take a look at today.
1. AI and machine learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are two technologies that go hand in hand and which allow us to interpret existing data in new ways that were never previously possible. AI isn't about creating an army of robots or even about creating virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa. Instead, it's all about taking the huge amounts of data that we create on a daily basis and then using it to arrive at conclusions.
For the cyber security industry, AI and machine learning could be used to make complicated models and to use data to predict the future. It could also be used to analyze huge amounts of information to look for weak points, and researchers will be able to put it to good use to make their work much more efficient. However, there's also a downside, which is that cybercriminals could take advantage of the technology, too.
2. Proactivity and preparation
If the WannaCry attack taught us anything it's that prevention is better than the cure. In fact, the attack was described as "relatively unsophisticated" and "easily preventable". Part of the problem was that they still had machines running Windows XP. It wasn't until an attack hit that they thought to protect themselves.
In many ways, it's understandable. The NHS isn't the only large organization that struggles to update its systems because of corporate red tape, but in the coming years we'll see these big outfits putting more and more focus on proactively securing their infrastructure. They simply won't be able to afford not to.
3. New GDPR Regulations
The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into play in May, and it's believed that as many as 80% of the companies that will be affected by it will not be compliant. The new legislation is set to change the way that companies can handle customers' information, and a variant will be enforced in the United Kingdom after it leaves the European Union.
It's too early to tell how strictly these new regulations will be enforced, but companies that are non-compliant could face fines and public shaming, both of which can do a lot of damage to their share prices. Either way, it's a good idea to make sure that you're compliant and to avoid any legal complications down the line.
4. Late adopters
As cybersecurity continues to grow mainstream and to command the attention of consumers and companies alike, we'll continue to see late adopters seeking out cybersecurity specialists to update their antiquated systems and to bring them into the 21st century. This long tail represents a huge amount of buying power, and when that makes its way into the market, it'll help to increase its overall size.
This is good news for everyone, because that money can then be reinvested into training and R&D to stay on top of viruses, loopholes and exploits. And it's all par for the course as cybersecurity continues to mature and becomes as important to modern companies as sales and marketing. Sooner or later, they'll have no choice but to invest in it.
5. The talent shortage
There's always been something of a talent shortage in the cybersecurity industry, but at the same time people are starting to specialize. Those who find a niche that they're skilled at will be able to charge a premium, and they'll also find that customers and clients are seeking them out because there's no real competition.
Meanwhile, companies will continue to struggle to find top-tier cybersecurity specialists and many will need to turn to specialist agencies to fulfill that need. But the agencies, too, will struggle to find top talent, at least until the industry is big enough to support specialist training programs, research centers and the rest of the infrastructure that we'll need to train up more talent.
As you can tell, there's a lot happening in the cybersecurity landscape and the challenge for both developers and the general public is to stay on top of it. For developers, simply updating their software is not necessarily enough.
That's why more and more webmasters and app owners are pushing people to set up two-factor authentication. After all, if they can push people to take steps to secure themselves, it takes some of the burden off suppliers to ensure that they're fully compliant with the latest best practices. Cyber security is like taking backups in that there's no such thing as overkill. The more secure something is, the better.
In the end, the field of cybersecurity will always be a battlefield, with black hat and white hat developers trying to outsmart each other. The bad guys will always be looking for exploits and the good guys will always be proactively hunting them down and fixing them. Just make sure that you're one of the good guys.