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Cyber Security

How has information technology become the latest security threat?

E By Keith Suter Global Directions

44 | Asia Pacific Security Magazine

veryday there are security stories which involve information technology (IT). This article provides three explanations for how we have been taken by surprise by the IT revolution: the IT revolution is a “black swan event”, the IT developers were too optimistic and too trusting, and government is being overwhelmed by the IT revolution. The bottom line is that humankind is still on a steep learning curve as it copes with the new IT era Information Technology as a “Black Swan” Event “Black Swan” events are high impact/low probability. They are very difficult to predict because of their rarity. The phrase originated with US financial expert Nassim Nicholas Taleb who lived through a financial crisis. His book is called The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Europeans thought that all swans were white and then they reached Western Australia and found black swans. “Black swan” events challenge the dominant paradigms of their day. People get taken by surprise people because they extrapolate from current conditions rather than “think about the unthinkable”. Three big technological inventions are Black Swan events: computers, Internet and lasers. They were all unplanned,

unpredicted and unappreciated initially upon their discovery. Gordon Moore (a founder of Intel) predicted on April 19 1965 that the power of computers would double every 18 months-two years and the price of computers would halve every 18 months-2 years. This is the most profound prediction to haunt us this century. The prediction was clear but few could believe the mathematics. People were unwilling to “think about the unthinkable” – the implications of such drastic increasing IT power. The Internet was not designed for all the purposes for which we are now using it. No one predicted how it would come to dominate our lives. No one evidently thought about how vulnerable it could be from people with malicious motives; there are too many points of vulnerability. Meanwhile older senior people at the top of organizations and companies may have been out of touch with all the IT developments. For example newspapers carried stories of how IT was changing society but newspaper board members were slow to ask “what will all this mean for the newspaper business model?” Consequently the old newspaper business is broken and there are no new clear business models. Additionally IT personnel may have had

Asia Pacific Security Magazine, Sept/Oct 2016