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4IR: The Invisible Revolution – Part Four

Part 4: Keeping it safe

Dangers of 4IR

4IR is not only a valuable tool for corporations, it also maintains a lot of the critical infrastructure that allows complex modern societies to function at all. Power production and water distribution are examples. In the future, driverless cars, drones, and others will become part of this ecosystem, with critical safety features integrated into them. Increasingly, 4IR is driving warfare and competition between states through the use of soft power, dissemination of propaganda, theft of IP, and over the horizon attacks. It is now easier to steal a high-end car by sniffing the rf code on an electronic key than with a crowbar and a credit card.

Jefferson wrote, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.". However, how do you square the circle of 4IR, which relies on the democratization of technology, against the criminals and states that seek to harm? Lenin’s belief that ‘no revolution is worth anything unless it can be defended’ has never been more accurate. One can guess he would have preferred IOS to Android.

In general, the 4IR in its present form has been welcomed by society precisely because of its invisibility. Consumer-focused services and products just get incrementally better over time. The sentiment can quickly turn sour when things go wrong, especially when it comes to data breaches and leaking of customer information. As the pandemic has shown, trust in science and reassurances from experts are no longer as persuasive as they once were. In a world where technology fundamentally alters the interaction between man and machine, creating trust is essential. Cybersecurity paradigms of the past must be upgraded to keep up with the new realities and allow 4IR to develop further.

Securing 4IR

With 4IR, data protection is being enhanced to offer similar levels of protection during transit and storage. For the cybersecurity industry, the challenge lies in unlocking and securing data in use, as well as protecting applications and AI models. As mentioned in the final report by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, living adversaries are exploiting AI to mount cybersecurity attacks that render current 20th-century techniques useless. The best approach for unleashing the power of data and AI while safeguarding them is zero trust, along with its sibling, confidential computing. This two-pronged approach assumes all systems are already compromised. Zero trust relies on authentication at the entry point into the specific data required using many different devices and data points. A critical part of confidential computing is securing the data that is in use. The data can be computed by multiple parties within an organization, its partners, and even competitors without a direct connection to any one of them.

Based on how the data will be used in the real world, there are several approaches to confidential computing that can be combined or chosen separately.

Different Approaches

Choosing the right approach depends on its intended use.

  • Latency on the Network - how important is it to include network latency when AI reaches a decision? The use of AI for autonomous vehicles with level 4 and 5 capabilities is an example. A round trip to the cloud might be costly when a split-second decision is crucial to avoiding a collision.
  • Scalability and speed - where massive amounts of data and computing power are required, they may require specialized GPUs and CPUs. Be sure to also consider the required bandwidth based on how much data needs to be moved within your infrastructure..
  • End to end security – Having expertise in the development and security of a network or an operational trust model to protect the environment using confidential computing and zero trust. 
  • Control - Is the most appropriate security and privacy strategy to be implemented in a data center, close to the edge, at the access point, or in the cloud?  

Whatever the circumstances, as these articles have hopefully shown, 4IR, with all its transformational powers on business and society, is only as good as the security that protects it. UltimaIt is critical for industries and infrastructure to be protected under 4IR, and society will reject this technology if the dangers it can bring outweigh the benefits.