I wouldn’t start from here


There’s that old joke that goes along the lines of someone is lost and stops another for directions. ‘Can you tell me the way to so and so?’ they ask, only to get the reply ‘Well, I wouldn’t start from here.’

There is a point to this joke and that is, if I have to point it out, that your circumstances are very much defined by the current position. Because we have started from a specific place then our choices as to the way forward are restricted. When you are in the forest it is very hard to see anything but trees.

Much of the way that society progresses is iterative, built up layer upon layer over time. Eventually though such an approach runs out of steam. As outside circumstances change then our history, rather than being a blessing becomes a curse and restricts our progress.

Broadband and mobile connectivity has been a case in point. In the UK, progress has been relatively so and, in large part, down to the widespread investment in older technology. At one time our telephone system was the envy of the world, with all properties connected to the network as part of a universal service commitment. 

As communication demands changed there has been an enormous demand for something better.  Countries without such an investment in copper based telephony have been able to skip such technology and go straight to mobile and full fibre.

The same is happening with the way that we think about cyber security. I hasten to say that I am no expert yet it seems to me that our approach is based upon when computers were stand alone entities which could be protected by building strong defensive walls. Great if you are a castle, but not so good as distributed and cloud based computing becomes the norm.

Cyber security is a nightmare. It is an arms race between those that want to attack and those that need to defend. The solutions that are going to win, however, are those that start bit from where we are but where we are likely to be. Of course this is a much harder bet, as it requires that you can guess the future.

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