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Forcepoint 2019 Predictions: Driven to the Edge

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2019.  Read them in this 11th annual series exclusive.

Contributed by Dr. Richard Ford, Chief Scientist, Forcepoint

Driven to the Edge

For the average user, it feels like the news is filled with story after story of breaches or abuse of personal data. This constant stream of bad news has left many feeling as if no matter what they do, their information will eventually be spilled, only to resurface on the Dark Web some time later. Confidence in many online services is therefore running low, with optimism in short supply.

In response to these concerns, providers are attempting to balance the legitimate needs of user privacy with their own desire to monetize the services they provide. Even better, some developers have realized that, with sufficient effort, it is possible to apply the principles of "Privacy by Design" to create a solution that is mutually beneficial to both the service provider and the end-user.

One strategy for improving privacy is to allow customers to retain control of their data by moving the algorithms that help process it to the endpoint rather than sending the data to the cloud. This approach of leveraging the endpoint in harmony with the cloud is known as edge computing. While some people tend to view edge computing as in conflict with adoption of the cloud, it more accurately represents the full realization of the cloud computing vision-where the cloud and the endpoint work together to provide service.

A recent example of a privacy-preserving solution that leverages edge computing is Apple's user trust scoring, which is designed to detect fraudulent use of a device by examining user behavior. As implemented, calculations on data are carried out on the device, with only metadata sent to the cloud, thereby protecting user privacy. However, these privacy benefits are only meaningful when end users are prepared to take the company at face value and actually believe that their data is, in fact, never moved off the device.

The drag here is trust. Because of the major shifts in societal trust over the last 10 years, trust in institutions has been replaced with a more distributed peer-to-peer (P2P) trust model. This is in part what has driven the success of companies like Uber and Airbnb, which essentially broker trust between two parties. No such process exists yet for companies, something that acts to the detriment of these better solutions. The emergence of security trust ratings may change the game. In so many ways, perception is reality.

Our prediction, then, is two-fold. First, we predict that many vendors will begin to apply the principles of edge computing in order to provide services with a higher degree of privacy. However, we also predict that many end users will either fail to understand these improvements, or have insufficient trust in the company to adopt these enhancements, thereby not allowing for real privacy to become a solid competitive differentiator.

It is not enough for organizations to comprehend and secure data both at the device and in the cloud. In order to engender trust they must make consumers believe that the company is indeed doing this.


About the Author


Dr. Richard Ford is the chief scientist for Forcepoint, overseeing technical direction and innovation throughout the business. He brings over 25 years' experience in computer security, with knowledge in both offensive and defensive technology solutions. During his career, Ford has held positions with Virus Bulletin, IBM Research, Command Software Systems and NTT Verio. He has also worked in Academia, having held an endowed chair in Computer Security, and worked as Head of the Computer Sciences and Cybersecurity Department at the Florida Institute of Technology. He holds a Bachelor's, Master's and D.Phil in Physics from the University of Oxford.

Published Friday, December 14, 2018 6:32 AM by David Marshall
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