Forecasting 2011: More Wireless, More Cybercrime, Less Privacy
Insurance Experts' Forum, January 4, 2011
At this time of the year, there is no shortage of pundits prognosticating about the next 12 months, and your blogger will not turn down the opportunity to hop on the bandwagon to continue our look ahead.
Various kinds of smartphone devices continue to be the talk of technology circles as new apps flood the market daily with seemingly no end in sight. Even as circumspect as we are in insurance and financial services, I can’t see us completely resisting the wireless tsunami. We want to be cool just as much (or maybe almost as much) as anyone out there, and right now, having and using such a device is still at the top of the coolness scale. Wireless also offers multiple opportunities for faster and more responsive action, both in the field and behind the desk—something that will appeal to our sector. Thus, I agree with our industry analysts who forecast continued expansion of these devices in our universe.
Instead of a tidal wave, however, look for growth of portable technology in our space to channel a lazy stream. There are several reasons we won’t go hog wild for wireless, one of which is that we rarely go hog wild for anything. In addition, many will argue that— particularly in insurance—things move quickly enough in most cases to satisfy consumer demand, even if some on the cultural fringe are demanding immediate gratification. Yet a more powerful reason is that Internet security in 2011 remains under assault, and that wireless devices are particularly vulnerable to unauthorized access.
Anyone who followed the technology sector in 2010 could not ignore the marked increase in high-level criminal hacking that is taking place in our world. This is criminal activity that is often carried out by (or in support of) crime syndicates, terrorist groups, governments—or other companies. The people doing this are, for the most part, not amateurs, and they are not likely to be scared about being caught, since many who have been nabbed wind up with ridiculously lenient sentences. Suffice it to say that criminals are powerfully motivated by high rewards, low risk and good probability of success. Ironically, this would make them a great insurance risk, if they ever felt they needed it.
Now that many of our cell phones have truly become portable Internet devices, every one of those devices becomes a potential entry point to someone’s network. While I have heard talk of improvements in wireless security, I see little that encourages me. The news headlines speak for themselves, and those headlines represent a very small percentage of the intrusions that actually occur.
It’s not that people aren’t industriously trying to make devices and communications more secure. It’s just that criminals are working just as hard to counteract any new security measures we may introduce—and so far they are being unnervingly successful. Part of the larger problem is that technologies like social media encourage us to open our lives and businesses like a public domain book for all to read.
All that, of course, means less privacy. But I’ll have more to say on that next time.
Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant, and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services.
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