So far this year, the surreptitious capture of audio and visual data via smartphone cameras and microphones has negatively impacted the world’s richest person and a beloved trillion-dollar company. It’s safe to say that awareness of this issue has reached the mainstream, increasingly forcing individuals, enterprises and product makers to change how they operate. To see how the trajectory of smartphone surveillance has changed even in the last several months, I think it would be helpful to look back at my 2019 predictions as a starting point.
In August, we conducted our annual survey designed to gauge attitudes about mobile security and privacy. In looking behind this year’s numbers, I was struck by how shifting perspectives seem to mirror the goings-on in the world of Apple. As a trillion-dollar company and the maker of the ever-popular iPhone, Apple has a metaphorical magnifying glass on everything it does, good or bad.
As a mentor, investor, and longtime player in the tech industry, I’m frequently asked which market segments I’m betting big on over the coming decade. My knack for spotting market transitions and the technologies that will fuel these shifts partially stems from my relentless focus on outcomes. That’s why I approach investing like a multiplayer chess game; I play out the entire game, replay various scenarios and anticipate others’ moves before I make the decision to invest my time and resources.
In the last 12 months, the threat of compromised smartphone cameras and microphones has taken on bigger real estate in the public consciousness, transforming from a largely abstract fear into a real, widespread and potentially devastating problem. The bad news is that this problem will get worse before it gets better. The good news is that security-centric organizations are looking for ways to proactively defend against this threat. So what will the next 12 months hold in store? Below, I’ve outlined six mobile security predictions for the coming year.
We started Privoro in 2013 not merely as a company, but as a philosophy: that security and privacy need not be casualties of our hyper-connected, sensor-driven, mobile-first world. That we should be able to trust and control our electronic devices. That our information is ours alone, and we should be able to control how it is accessed and shared.
Ten years ago, I would have said that voice was an interface of the past. Yet today, the voice revolution is well underway and it’s becoming clear that voice will, in fact, be the next major interface. Just look at the proliferation and capabilities of virtual assistants and voice-activated devices, whether it’s asking Amazon’s Alexa-enabled Echo to turn down the thermostat, having Google Home recite your schedule for the day, or instructing Apple’s Siri to read your emails out loud. While nearly one in five Americans has access to a smart speaker today, Gartner predicts that 75 percent of households in the U.S. will have smart speakers by 2020.
Privoro recently attended the GSF Modern Warfare conference at Fort Bragg, home of the 82nd Airborne (I highly recommend researching the history of this division if you’re unfamiliar). Although our trip to Fort Bragg was a first, what wasn’t new at all is the problem smartphones are causing government employees across the military, intel agencies and Capitol Hill.
Our world is filled with news and conversations about hacking. From well-publicized public hacks like Target, OPM and Equifax down to the private internal discussions of how to keep information safe, hacking is all around us.
Pentagon’s smartphone policy costs taxpayers an estimated $2 million per day
On May 22, Pentagon leadership banned smartphones from all secure spaces – effectively every office and meeting room in the largest single office building in the world. The ban even includes government-issued phones given to high-priority personnel and negatively impacts over 26,000 Department of Defense military, civilian and contractor employees.
Economic espionage – also known as industrial espionage, corporate espionage and corporate spying – justifiably resides as the top concern of security professionals and persists across companies of all sizes. Whether a company’s knowledge assets or data on its personnel, the odds have long been that someone seeks proprietary information.Today, however, the information is more accessible, exists in various locations and available to devices via the internet. What has also changed is the migration of access to data as it no longer occurs for everyone from a computer terminal in an office. Data now resides in the cloud and may possibly be distributed across a myriad of electronic devices. Moreover, the adoption of mobile computing combined with the explosion of electronic devices has forged a Bring Your Own Device (BYOB) work model that has essentially extended the enterprise’s security perimeter to each employee’s phone providing assailants a greater surface to attack with an easier entrée given the vulnerabilities with smartphones. These devices that have more computing power than what powered a business 40 years ago have but a fraction of the protections. The abilities to access corporate systems, intercept inter-company correspondence, eavesdrop on sensitive conversations, track employees and store precious data now reside on smartphones and reside in nearly every employee’s hand with the first and often only guard of protection to something an enterprise values.