Technology has improved our lives immeasurably; but where there's a yin, there must be a yang. It's a natural law, even in the most artificial of environments.
It used to be the Twilight Zone. I also remember reading these peculiar comics growing up, full of future-shock stories. It’s cranked up a bit these days with high-budget, intelligent television programming like Black Mirror and Philip K Dick’s uber-bleak Electric Dreams. And sometimes these visions of a dystopian world are called “The News”. We even have weather forecasts telling people not to go outside for too long and warning us about air quality issues, and this is what passes for normal these days.
We are an adaptive race, fortunately. This is the modern incarnation of evolution, writ large.
Technology has moved on frighteningly quickly in the last fifty years. It feels like progress, but sometimes it's like we are constantly playing catch-up because unfettered, unregulated progress always has its drawbacks.
The internet is a virtual war zone. A new breed of criminal (or are they sometimes something else?) is sitting at a keyboard, right now, looking for flaws to penetrate, victims to exploit, and causing all manner of mayhem. I think many of us have a vision of lovable nerdy type characters, bingeing on junk food, fluent in Klingon, living in Mom and Dad’s basement, playing havoc with the NSA for larks.
It’s usually much more sinister than that. Cyber criminals are often well organised, working within a cabal, sharing useful information and working in unison towards a profitable outcome where the risk/reward equation is ridiculously skewed. A rough estimate (which is all it can be, such is the furtive nature of the misdeeds) suggests that cybercrime is netting more than half a trillion dollars annually. I don’t care who you are; that’s a big chunk of change, and with rewards like that, it’s going to get bigger and bigger.
Which means that cyber-security is one of the growth industries in the IT world. It’s a lucrative one, too. Wages in cyber-security are three times higher than average salaries in the workplace in general. And I am sure that there is a pun in here somewhere, but unlike a lot of IT jobs, which are subject to the outrageous fortune of new technology, jobs in cyber security are extremely secure. There’s security in security. Ah, nearly squeezed one out.
If there is money to be made, you can guarantee that cyber-thieves will keep finding ingenious and Machiavellian ways of making it. Which means that a smart cyber-security expert is always going to be in demand.
Big firms now have large budgets allocated to keeping their systems secure; this is a battle that they cannot afford to lose, even once. Credibility counts for so much when money is at stake, and the nature of capitalism means that the vultures are already circling, waiting for weaknesses and exposed vulnerabilities. Competitors may not be the cause of an issue (although conspiracy theories abound, of course – this is the internet, after all), but they will not hesitate to take an advantage presented to them. One companies misfortune is another’s opportunity.
We’re doing it, in our own way. Our role is different, so we don’t stand to gain from any given company’s travails, but we are working hard to foster strong links with cybersecurity employers and jobseekers.
Capitalism abhors a vacuum…unless it’s a Dyson, of course.