A few years ago when walking through Kyiv, Ukraine, my path was blocked by a vociferous but polite demonstration of placard waving elderly people led by long-bearded black-clad Orthodox priests.
Their signs included images of technology – things like mobile phones – with a bar through them. I asked my Ukrainian colleague to translate what they were shouting and protesting about. She said she was too embarrassed to tell me, but I insisted so she explained. They were protesting against progress.
Literally, they were shouting, “Down with progress!” “Stop progress now!”
These were remnants of a contradiction: religious Soviets who had suffered and endured all manner of hardships – physical, mental and spiritual – and survived to become pensioners in a democracy (of sorts), but for all the benefits of becoming part of the consumer society, the opportunities had come too late, the benefits of a collective society were lost and they now faced a new set of risks and uncertainties that they were unprepared for and which undermined the certainties of the past.
In the past couple of weeks SC has been inundated with cyber-security predictions for 2017, and I'll admit, on reading them I gained a little more sympathy for those who would turn back progress, as it is not without its victims.
For every enthusiastic new use of AI, big data and analytics came at least six warnings of new record level attacks to come, new vectors of attack and apocalyptic warnings – that may not even be exaggerations – which spoke of major corporations and even countries likely to be taken down in the year ahead.
Elsewhere the talk was of new firsts, such as the first civilian casualties of cyber-warfare, the first ransomware worms, and every IoT nightmare you could imagine, and a few you probably wouldn't dream of without the aid of strong drugs.
Added to Brexit and Trump, cyber-security and its lack are a new source of disruption. It's often said that change is the only constant, but it's likely that the level of change will accelerate in our industry during 2017, and change will indeed be the only certainty.
The post-war generation in the west – occasional terrorist outrages aside – has not had war in their homelands, and has seen physical crime diminish year on year as prosperity grew. But as cyber lowers the threshold of conflict, we are swapping the cold or phoney war for the proxy cyber-wars, and physical crime for online fraud.
Just as we had to prepare ourselves for what might come in the physical world, we must now do the same for what we know is coming in our online lives. We know our adversaries are working on new attack capabilities as we speak, which leaves us no choice but to seize the opportunities technology offers us to build new developments that can thwart them. Whether we like it or not, we are all in the cyber-arms race now, because there is no stopping ‘progress.'