Feeds

Futurologist warns of malevolent dust menace

It'll get right up your nose

Reducing security risks from open source software

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. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
LibreSSL RNG bug fix: What's all the forking fuss about, ask devs
Blow to bit-spitter 'tis but a flesh wound, claim team
Microsoft: You NEED bad passwords and should re-use them a lot
Dirty QWERTY a perfect P@ssword1 for garbage websites
Manic malware Mayhem spreads through Linux, FreeBSD web servers
And how Google could cripple infection rate in a second
NUDE SNAPS AGENCY: NSA bods love 'showing off your saucy selfies'
Swapping other people's sexts is a fringe benefit, says Snowden
Own a Cisco modem or wireless gateway? It might be owned by someone else, too
Remote code exec in HTTP server hands kit to bad guys
British data cops: We need greater powers and more money
You want data butt kicking, we need bigger boots - ICO
Crooks fling banking Trojan at Japanese smut site fans
Wait - they're doing online banking with an unpatched Windows PC?
NIST told to grow a pair and kick NSA to the curb
Lrn2crypto, oversight panel tells US govt's algorithm bods
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.