The channel’s 2020 vision: From edge computing and malicious tech to closing the skills gap

As we enter 2020, PCR speaks to experts from various parts of the tech and IT channel to find out some of the biggest trends expected to hit the industry, the businesses that work within it, and the end users.

IOT, 5G AND EDGE COMPUTING

“To date, much of the forecasts around 5G have been in relation to investment and launches. However, next year this will change. With several telco companies officially launching the technology and 5G-compatible phones coming into mainstream, consumers will start to see 5G ‘in action’ and will realise the possibilities with this new technology,” Nick Offin, head of sales, marketing and operations at Dynabook Northern Europe, tells PCR.

“But 5G won’t just mean a faster download of your favourite Netflix show, the shift from 4G to 5G will change just about everything across multiple industries. Telecom experts are going so far as to herald 5G’s arrival as the advent of the fourth industrial revolution. In fact, 5G – with its enhanced capacity, connectivity, speeds and minimal latencies – will be the catalyst for IoT adoption. Other technologies predicted to springboard off 5G include cloud and edge computing, wearables, and 8K technology – to name a few.”

Offin also believes that the advent of 5G will see wearable technology continue to reach even more sectors. “One such industry is the emergency services sector. Decision-makers within the police, fire and ambulance services are beginning to recognise how they can best use wearable devices to enhance the mobile productivity of workforces, improve first-responder safety and better patient care. While wearables remain in their infancy within the Blue Light sector, over the next few years we’ll see a growing appetite around use case testing and experimentation. Those who are already testing out wearable technology are continually uncovering more potential use-cases.”

He continues: “Edge computing has gained significant traction in recent years. However, if 5G, IoT and wearables are to be adopted at the rate predicted, it will require ‘the edge’ to remain central to enterprise operations. The value of edge computing comes in its ability to provide secure and powerful computing at the periphery of the network, reducing operational strain and latency. In 2020 and beyond, mobile edge computing will act as the gateway for even more IoT solutions to be used across the professional world. In the same way that laptops and smartphones created a new environment for office workers, mobile edge computing will do the same for these workers.”

Doki Tops, CEO of Utomik adds that the rollout of 5G is bound to make waves in gaming. “Gamers can get faster speeds and download times – anything less will hamper the success of next-gen consoles who can’t keep up.”

SECURITY AND GDPR

Moving on to the security of the internet of things, and Joseph Carson, chief security scientist and advisory CISO at Thycotic, believes that throughout 2019, the use and abuse of IoT devices had risen and it doesn’t look like it will be slowing down as we go into 2020.

“IoT differs from computers as they have a specific purpose and cannot be re-programmed, therefore organisations need to view and assess the risks specific to the function or task of the device in order to increase the security.

“Organisations, in particular the manufacturers of IoT devices, will need to adapt their security approach to ensure that these fast- growing endpoints are secure. The new Californian and Oregon IoT legislation coming into effect in January is a step in the right direction, but more must be done. IoT security is about focusing on the risks not the device.”

Looking at cyber awareness in general, and Carson says it is evolving to become more human friendly. “We are now seeing a difference in approach to security evolving into company culture. Boards and top-level executives are now learning how to communicate accordingly on cyber security topics, meaning that security teams and their goals are becoming a lot more aligned with the business’ goals.”

Moving on to GDPR, Jeremy Hendy, CEO at Skurio, tells PCR that in 2019, the regulators “bared their teeth and showed that sky- high penalties were more than a hollow threat”.

“Precedents were set with the first wave of multi-million pound GDPR fines, reflecting the sheer amount of data that was compromised,” says Hendy.

“In 2020 we’ll see the wider impact on consumer behaviour. GDPR is all about putting the safety of customers’ data front and centre; those companies that have been breached are likely to see frustrated customers voting with their feet and taking their business elsewhere. In 2020, as we see the second wave of fines, regulators will also face the challenge of how to deal with ‘repeat offenders’.

“It’s reinforced the importance of early breach detection for compromised credentials. Companies can also get proactive about planned attacks, which can be identified through chatter on dark web forums by threat actors.”

MALICIOUS TECH

“Ransomware isn’t the most pervasive or common threat, it’s simply the noisiest. In 2020, attacks will become more targeted and sophisticated. Hackers will pivot from spray-and-pray tactics,” says Brian Vecci, Field CTO at Varonis.

“They will instead linger on networks and hone in on the most valuable data to encrypt. Imagine an attacker that encrypts investor information before a publicly traded bank announces earnings. This is the type of ransomware attack I expect we’ll see more of in the coming year, and organisations that can’t keep up will continue to get hit.

“Forget fake news: 2020 will be the year of the deepfake and at least one major figure will pay the price. Thanks to leaky apps and loose data protection practices, our data and photos are everywhere. It will be game-on for anyone with a grudge or a sick sense of humour. It raises the ultimate question: What is real and what is fake?”

Thycotic’s Joseph Carson also believes we will see more deepfake news in 2020.

“What has been concerning in 2019 is the increase in identity and credential theft, and I see this becoming much more problematic in 2020. The rapid advancement of deepfake technology is taking identity fraud to a whole new level of online challenges and risks, not only are they stealing your digital online identity, but also your digital voice and digital face,” says Carson.

“This means that cybercriminals can take digital identity theft to a new level and could have the ability to create an entire digital clone of you. I see this becoming a major problem area in the cyber space and even more so in political campaigns as the general public will not have the awareness to distinguish what is real from fake. In today’s internet, data without context is dangerous.”

BREXIT AND BUSINESS GOALS

“In the year ahead, the channel will experience an increase in the demand and requirement for MSPs, across all types of software, including SaaS. Driving this trend is the shortage of IT Professionals, especially in the cyber security sector, which is really being felt by customers. MSPs are being sought as the solution to fill this void,” says Nick Miles, director of regional alliances at Okta.

“The shroud of uncertainty surrounding Brexit is also continuing to add another layer of complexity. This has caused instability in the market and is preventing many making long-term decisions, which is impacting the entire channel ecosystem, including businesses, resellers and customers.

“With so much uncertainty, channel partners have a key role in 2020. They need to do more than just sell software. The resellers that help customers on their journeys, provide added consultancy on all issues, and are able to react to the inevitable changes that will take place, will have the biggest opportunity to succeed.”

Carolyn Crandall, chief deception officer at Attivo Networks believes 2020 will be “the year of API connectivity”.

“Driven by the need for on-demand services and automation, there will be a surge in requirements for the use of technology that interconnects through APIs. Vendors that don’t interconnect may find themselves passed over for selection in favour of others with API access that add value to existing solutions,” says Candall.

“DevOps capabilities will continue to increase their significance in moving projects to products, with only 9% of technology professionals responsible for the development and quality of web and mobile applications stating that they had not adopted DevOps and had no plans to do so. This will drive an increased focus on DevSecOps and how opensource software is managed within projects.”

We have heard a lot about the skills gap in the tech industry, and Skurio’s Jeremy Hendy believes that in 2020 it will be more important than ever to find and retain talent in the channel.

“There’s a real dearth of cyber security talent and smaller businesses will be hardest hit throughout 2020. Skilled professionals will be increasingly hard to find and difficult to retain. Market forces will put the option of full time, in-house security specialists, commanding high salaries, out of reach for many smaller businesses.

“Instead, they’ll need to think creatively and look at how they can plug the gap through outsourcing and affordable service-based solutions.”

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