New Report: Privacy Ignored While Apps and Devices Proliferate

by Tracy Knauer •

Lack of digital privacy between individuals and companies, increased hacking of private data and new security and privacy risks associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) will top the list of cyber threats in 2016, according to a recent report from Georgia Tech.

The study, titled “2016 Emerging Cyber Threats Report,” outlines what researchers at Georgia Tech and elsewhere believe to be the greatest challenges the digital world will face in the coming year. It identified four specific areas of concern:

  1. A “privacy tug-of-war” between individual users and the organizations that provide digital services to them. The issue here is that it has become commonplace to require users to surrender large amounts of personal data in order to sign up for an Internet-based service, or even just to use a product. In some cases, users don’t even know exactly what the service does with their information, or which third parties it shares data with. And worst of all, privacy policies are now usually an all-or-nothing affair: Users don’t have the option to retain some personal information in exchange for a lesser degree of service. They have to give up everything if they want to use a service at all.
  2.  Internet of Things (IoT) devices are becoming explosively popular, but developers have put little effort into making them secure and adding privacy controls. “Today’s device manufacturers do not naturally have security in their mindset,” the report summary says.
  3. The ever-increasing importance of software and the Internet across the world means more and more workers are needed to run digital infrastructure. However, organizations that employ IT workers are not always investing in teaching those workers how to protect security and privacy, according to the report — although the report noted as well that “some corporations are training and retraining workers” in this area, which is a good sign.
  4. Cyber espionage is on the rise, and ordinary people’s private data is often caught in the middle when cyber attackers target major companies or government organizations — as they did recently in high-profile breaches at Target and the United States Office of Personnel Management.

The report, which was prepared by a journalist on the basis of interviews, is the latest in a series of annual Georgia Tech reports on cyber security that appear in October.

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