Reflections on 2016 (Part 1): An Escalating Threat Landscape

This is part 1 of a 4 part blog series reflecting on the 2016 safety and security landscape. To download the full white paper, visit our Knowledge Center.

A Brief History of Security Innovation

Have no illusions. Across companies, governments and homes, we are now in this current state of unprecedented security vulnerability. Before we discuss solutions, it’s worth pausing to reflect on how the rate of security threats and innovation has evolved and escalated across history.

For as long as humans have been living in close proximity to each other, we’ve been defending our homes, our families and our assets. Initially, this was in the form of hand-to-hand defense: with bows and arrows from as early as 10,000 BC. It took 9,000 years but eventually we innovated: with padlocked containers around 1,000 BC. Unfortunately robbers just stole the entire box and broke the container in quiet locations. Our next security innovation took a mere 2,000 years with combination locks gaining popularity in the 1850s. This time robbers responded with drills and picks. In the 1870s banks largely moved onto time locks; robbers responded with nitroglycerin. By the 1920s, most banks had installed vaults; robbers innovated with cutting torches.

The 1950s heralded a significant change in criminal strategy. For the first time, thieves innovated to launch long-distance, more anonymous, and untraceable attacks using global telephone networks. “Phreakers” sought to make free long distance calls using blue boxes that emulated international dial tones, financially depriving telecommunications companies in the process. In the 1980s, the emergence of the online personal computer multiplied the range of targets that could be compromised from a distance, and by the mid 1980s self-replicating computer viruses were infecting and disrupting this online community.

Since that time, criminals’ exploitation of emerging technologies has progressed at a dizzying pace: social networks have provided criminals with a treasure trove of personal information that aide with targeting and password infiltration. And for the last 10 years, the smart phone has supplemented this knowledge with real-time location data. Now our culture’s embrace of connected devices, the “Internet of Things” revolution, is taking our society to a peak vulnerability state where almost every home, factory, vehicle and firm is vulnerable to an expanding ocean of hackers and attacks.

2016 Crime Statistics

The FBI’s recent report of a 3.7% decline in “property crimes” between 2014 and 2015 gives false hope, as those statistics exclude cybercrime, trickery, confidence games and fraud. Indications are that these fraud rates quadrupled over the same period, and they are joined by a 5% increase in violent crime.

The reality is, we are at the start, not the end, of a global crime pandemic: brought about by our society’s level of connection to a global fraternity of criminals. This crime wave has been made possible by society’s exuberant embrace of new technologies with too little thought or precautions taken to ensure we do not expose ourselves, our companies, our families and our society in the process.

But there is hope. A wave of next generation innovations is emerging to help governments, corporations and individuals defend themselves from this wave of emerging threats. It is supported by an increasingly willing customer landscape as companies recognize the value of embedded security innovations that not only reduce their operating and liability risk, but differentiate their own product offerings.

As we reflect on the security shambles of 2016, we are optimists. We sense true winds of change in the security landscape for 2017 and beyond.

To download the full white paper, visit our Knowledge Center.

About The Analysis: Our research leverages AlphaPrime’s proprietary data warehouse, Charlotte’s Web™, that tracks thousands of companies that protect people and assets. This particular analysis was conducted in February and March 2017. Charlotte’s Web™ is the result of hours of painstaking research: from our first analyst (and the data warehouse’s namesake) Charlotte Kwon, to Matteo Cuda, Emma Yunqi Li, Nathan Coen and Marc Bove who have contributed to its data reserves over the years. We remember and remain enormously thankful.

About AlphaPrime: In an increasingly complex and dangerous world, threats to people and assets are escalating in diversity, frequency and magnitude. The need and ability to anticipate and respond to these threats is essential and universal. AlphaPrime invests in companies that address this need, and manage and protect people and assets. It’s not part of what we do, it’s everything we do.

Photo: BBC

Photo: BBC