Back to the Future Day has finally arrived: 21st October 2015, the day Marty McFly and Emmett "Doc" Brown arrived in the future, in the sci-fi film from 1989. Some of the technologies imagined back then actually became reality, others not. Ironically, the World Wide Web, the most remarkable of the technologies they didn't predict, was invented in the same year the movie was released. That would have been a totally different 2015 had they got this one right.
For those that remember the film, McFly decides he will get rich by buying a book with the results from sport events from previous decades. He then travelled back to deliver it to himself, so he could bet to win every time. Today's criminals found easier ways than time-travelling to make money, but almost as far-fetching as a sci-fi movie. Except that they are real.
Who would have thought that one day ransom would be asked not in exchange for kidnapped people, but for 'kidnapped' data? That inside trading would come not from leaks, but that hackers would be able to get into a network to read confidential communication undetected? They then invest on the right stock at the precisely the right moment to make a fortune that seems genuine, unless you know they had the information. McFly and his sports book sure sound naïve compared to this.
Forget about flying cars, who in 1989 could have imagined that in 2015 criminals would be able to take control over a car? That instead of talking fridges, we would have networks of home appliances being used to spread malware?
In 2015, the villain Biff Tannen wouldn't have stolen the DeLorean time machine from Doc. He could probably just hack into his computer where the drawings are kept and make a replica for himself. Maybe he would even claim the idea was his to start with.
When we think about it, it is like we are all living the most exciting sci-fi film of all times. There are all sorts of unimaginable technology out there, or being developed right now, that nobody could have imagined. Similarly, today's cybercriminals are reaching beyond the stretch of one's imagination and finding ways to perpetrate crimes and get away with it. Their actions many times overshadow the invention and could even render them inviable.
If you cannot guarantee that a new technology is going to deliver the benefit it is supposed to offer, but instead could be turned into something else to do more harm than good, would you still release it? In many cases, the very concept of a particular piece of technology relies on the assumption that it can perform in a secure manner, for its intended purposes, without anyone running interference. Think of an artificial heart, for example.
If we want to keep on the path of creating technology seen in sci-fi films, and not horror ones, we all need to bring our concepts of cybersecurity to the 21st century.