Tech predictions for 2016

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20162016 will see an increased focus on cybersecurity and specifically, cybersecurity training, says technology columnist MJ Shoer.

This was originally published on December 27, 2015 on Seacoastonline.com.

With the New Year right around the corner it’s the time of year when I like to look forward to what the next year may hold for the technology industry.

2015 was a year of tremendous growth for technology utilization in the business world and this will continue into 2016 and beyond.

We all realize our use of technology will continue to expand. This has positives and negatives, but without question, the positives outweigh the negatives and will continue to do so. One of the negatives we saw in 2015 were some fairly high-profile outages in the public Cloud. The public Cloud is made up of the hosting capabilities of companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Verizon, among others. Nearly every technology company is now offering some form of Cloud solutions, often built upon their own infrastructures that they resell to customers and partners. When these infrastructures experience an interruption, it is often felt across a wide array of businesses.

As we move into 2016, more emphasis will be placed on stabilizing these infrastructures with increased redundancy, both geographically as well as physically, to minimize and ultimately eradicate the impact of any outage event. As more and more businesses and consumers rely on Cloud solutions, this will be critical to insure the ongoing reliability and success of these systems.

Convergence of technology continues to be a significant trend across all industries. You may have heard the term Internet of Things. This broad term refers to almost any device that connects to the Internet. Smart-everything is becoming the norm. You can even install a refrigerator that will alert you if the temperature goes out of range or when the egg tray is running low on eggs. In some applications, you may even be able to order more eggs, right from the door of your refrigerator for delivery to your home the next day. Some will find this type of technology very invasive, but others will consume it.

Wearable devices are putting more sensors on our bodies than ever before. These are mostly for personal use today, but the applications for health care and other industries could be profound. When your cardiologist needs to monitor your heart for a few days you typically have to go to the office, be fitted to a monitor and then return to the office a day or two later to have the monitor removed and the data analyzed. Applications now exist to allow these monitors to feed data, in real time, back to the doctor for instant analysis. Many automobile insurers are offering devices you can plug in to your car to monitor your driving habits. The device communicates through your smartphone, to send real time driving data back to the insurance company and if you qualify, based on your driving habits, you may save a substantial amount of money on your premiums.

All this connectivity leads to the obvious concern about security. We’ve all seen some extremely high-profile hacks of private data. If the U.S. government’s Office of Personnel Management cannot safeguard its data, how likely are you? It’s not a pleasant question to consider. The good news is that you personally, or the business you work for, is not likely to be as juicy a target as a large organization like OPM or the many other household name companies that have been hacked, but the threat cannot be ignored.

2016 will see an increased focus on cybersecurity and specifically, cybersecurity training. Companies will be forced to institute cybersecurity training programs, along the lines of what is done now with sexual harassment training, among other programs. While IT departments will continue to install more sophisticated technologies to help combat these threats, end-user education has become the clear number one risk in the marketplace. At the end of the day, as I have written about numerous times, all the technology in the world cannot prevent a single person from pressing the wrong key at the wrong time and causing a data breach or worse.

Over the coming year, I expect more and more business to start actively testing their security measures. This will involve regular penetration tests, where ethical hackers attempt to breach a network for the sole purpose of uncovering vulnerabilities that need to be fixed. I also expect organizations to undertake phishing probes, where specific e-mail messages that mirror the type of messages hackers use to try to trick recipients into opening the message, thereby allowing malicious software to install on that person’s computer and put the company network at risk. Tests like this will help educate users to the risks. They will not be undertaken to call people out or punish them, but rather to show real world examples of threats and how they need to be addressed to insure the safety of the company network.
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There are many more developments that I expect to take hold in 2016 and the year ahead will be another exciting one for technology. Those of us with careers in information technology have a lot to be grateful for. We work in an industry that continues to change the world for the better. I’m looking forward to 2016 and wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year

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