THE BLOG

Have We Placed Too Much Trust in Technology?

01/02/2016 16:55 GMT | Updated 01/02/2017 10:12 GMT

"You have reached your destination." We're all familiar with those reassuring words of navigation systems. But what if the place you reach is not the destination you programmed in? What if, despite what the voice in your car says, you're now somewhere you really don't want to be?

If your car's been hacked, that's exactly what could happen. Yet how many of us ever think it could happen to us? This was one of the many topics I discussed with colleagues and peers at the World Economic Forum last month.

In 2015, Edelman's Trust Barometer found that customers trust the technology sector more than any other. And they build that trust remarkably quickly.

In the "real" world, these things take time. We grow to trust the opinions of our long-term friends, the newspaper we read regularly, or perhaps the companies we've been with for years - like our banks.

In the online world, we readily rely on the opinions of strangers to find out if an eBay seller is up to scratch or an Airbnb room is worth staying in. We add our banking details to shopping sites in the blink of an eye. Or we share our personal details on social media. We do most of these things without a second thought. Until something goes wrong.

But recent high-profile privacy and security breaches have started to put a dent in that unconditional trust. They're a reminder that in this data-fuelled world, we have no choice but to constantly rethink risk.

What's more, as everything from our fridges and lampposts to cars and even entire cities become connected, the security risk we face only increases.

If you're a manufacturer, and you've developed a brand-spanking new car, you'd think a top-of-the-range alarm system would be the highest level of protection you'd need. But if that car's connected - and by 2020, more than 90 per cent of cars will be - you'd be better off investing in the services of an ethical hacker.

Ethical hackers can give organisations a standardised way to test their systems. They imitate hacker attacks, reporting areas where you could be vulnerable and recommending ways for you to protect yourself. And they don't just test desktop computers; they can test any digital enterprise system or device - even cars and their complete digital environment.

Clearly, organisations need to keep their data safe from the real hackers. After all, we regularly trust them with everything from our bank details to our national security number. So how do organisations feel about that responsibility?

In 2014 a BT survey found that three quarters of IT decision makers said security was the main thing that worried them about using the cloud to store data or run web applications. It's hardly surprising. When networks in a single company use on-site, public and private clouds, even getting an accurate view, let alone a holistic one, of governance, risk management and audit risks can be quite an endeavour.

But things are getting easier. Nowadays, smart CIOs are starting to combine all their organisation's cloud services into a single cloud - a cloud of clouds - that they can manage and secure centrally. This gives them more visibility and control, and it helps them spot risky services and tighten up their security as and when they need to.

With developments like these, it's no wonder that the likes of the Federal Chief Information Officer of the United States, Tony Scott, is advising IT leaders to embrace the cloud sooner rather than later. Today government agencies and financial services organisations are using cloud based hosting services to protect sensitive data. So trust in the cloud is rightly increasing: not unconditional trust, but trust that's built as the technology is evolving.

In the future every business, city and home will be connected. That means everything, from computers to cars, will be a 'device', and those devices will need to protect users and their personal information. We should be able to trust our navigation systems to deliver us safely to the destination we want to go to.

For the most part, customers trust the tech industry to do that, and CIOs are clearly coming around to the cloud. But for organisations and their customers to be genuinely confident about their digital future, each and every one of us in the tech industry needs to keep on earning that trust. We need to make sure the security we offer keeps pace with ever-changing risks. In short, we need hyper-security for a hyper-connected world.