Feeds

Futurologist warns of malevolent dust menace

It'll get right up your nose

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SMASH the Bash bug! Apple and Red Hat scramble for patch batches
'Applying multiple security updates is extremely difficult'
Shellshock: 'Larger scale attack' on its way, warn securo-bods
Not just web servers under threat - though TENS of THOUSANDS have been hit
Apple's new iPhone 6 vulnerable to last year's TouchID fingerprint hack
But unsophisticated thieves need not attempt this trick
Oracle SHELLSHOCKER - data titan lists unpatchables
Database kingpin lists 32 products that can't be patched (yet) as GNU fixes second vuln
Who.is does the Harlem Shake
Blame it on LOLing XSS terroristas
Researchers tell black hats: 'YOU'RE SOOO PREDICTABLE'
Want to register that domain? We're way ahead of you.
Stunned by Shellshock Bash bug? Patch all you can – or be punished
UK data watchdog rolls up its sleeves, polishes truncheon
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.