Futurologist warns of malevolent dust menace
It'll get right up your nose
As if botnet clients and infected USB devices weren't bad enough, security pros of the future may be faced with the menace of "smart dust" information stealing threats, if a futurologist is to be believed.
Ian Pearson reckons that so-called "smart dust" will be the stuff of future IT security nightmares. Smart dust is nothing to do with the Smoke Monster in Lost, nor the concept outline in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, though it might as well be given the vagueness of the description Pearson offers.
In a Life and How We’ll Live It Futurizon report, which was commissioned by IT giant Fujitsu, Pearson explains:
Tiny specks of smart dust dropped through ventilation grills on office equipment will allow interception of data before it even gets to an encryption device. Slightly ‘cleverer’ smart dust could even allow documents to be subtly altered while they are being printed.
Malware will continue to exist alongside the asthma-unfriendly dust menace, apparently. Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said Pearson's projections on this score seemed designed to make headlines rather than delineate real threats and possible counter-measures.
"What are we supposed to do make microscopic barrage balloons?" Cluley asked. "He doesn't explain how this smart dust would work. It's not very useful."
Cluley added that the trend was towards much more and similar malware. "The inventiveness has gone out of malware creation," he said, almost wistfully.
We wanted to ask Pearson how smart dust might work but unfortunately he was unavailable on Thursday, the day Fujitsu issued an embargoed release on his musings, and continued to be unavailable for the next week.
Futurologists have the task of tracking and predicting new developments throughout IT, and evaluating the technological and social implications. At best they have the capability to inspire engineers (the doers) to develop new types of products in a way the best science fiction has sometimes contributed to technology in the past. For example, it was hard Sci-Fi giant Arthur C Clarke who first came up with idea of geostationary satellites.
Most of the projections by Pearson in the report actually make sense because they draw on current developments. For example, he predicts retinal projection of screens via active contact lenses (a la Minority Report) and Artificial Intelligence rather than people doing humdrum office tasks.
More boldly, Pearson predicts the reversal of globalisation in terms of staff location, except for some niche industries that require skills that are spread globally, because of the importance of maintaining face to face contact.
That argument cuts against the move to greater use of remote working and the ubiquity of cloud computing, which Pearson also predicts, but is at least plausible.
Smart dust, by contrast, is an ill-defined flight of fancy that's best swept under the carpet or hoovered up lest it become an unsightly distraction. ®
Replace 'smart dust'
with 'underpant gnomes' and this makes a whole lot more sense to me.
Future threats to our security and privacy...
I think the concept of a smart dust collective (whilst interesting) is a very distant somewhat esoteric theoretical threat to our security/privacy.
What we need to be focusing on is threats that will affect us over the next about 10 to 20 years.
I think a far bigger issue is the near total loss of our privacy for all but the rich and powerful people in the world. The point is we don't need to worry about smart dust spyware dropped on us, to loose our security and privacy when our entire lives are increasingly already being picked over and traded by companies and governments behind our backs. So we won't have any security or privacy long before futuristic theoretical threats become an issue.
The rich and powerful bosses of companies (and politicians) increasingly behave as if all our data belongs to them, for their exploitation, their protection, their desires for ever more wealth, and their ability to maintain their position of power over us to continue to exploit us. (But then thats their Narcissistic self interest expressed in their desire to abuse others for their own gain). All our data increasingly belongs to them. That is a far bigger threat to our security and privacy because ever more technology is increasingly not even owned by us. The technology is increasingly being twisted and abused into a way of acting like spyware by design to become a backdoor into our entire lives to leak data on us. That is our future threat and that is increasingly happening now.
Also having the ability to opt out is increasingly not going to work. We will be forced to conform to be spied on. Societies are ruled by herding people on mass to do what the rich and powerful want ultimately for their gain leaving anyone who doesn't want to conform to their wishes with little choice but to fall in line, because the rich and powerful close off choices to force people to do what they want. After all, that is what having power over people really means. The ability to force others to conform.
That is our future threat to our security and privacy and that is increasingly happening now. Our future threat isn't about hacking its about systemic spying by design on our lives. Spyware increasingly built directly into our lives.
Sadly George Orwell was a very good futurologist :(
Title, my liege? Why marry, thy name is Moderatrix
Oh dear. Another 'grey goo' apocalyptic. Does no-one bother to think about where these ghastly devices might possibly get the energy required to move, compute, and transmit.