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How Fast Tech Growth Left Us with a Ton of Security Flaws

by Kayla Matthews on Thursday October 13, 2016

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A few recent events have reminded us of the consequences when demand for innovation outpaces security efforts.

Technology has been growing at an incredibly fast pace in the past decade or so. In many ways, that’s a good thing, because the growth expands possibilities and makes it easier to do the tasks that define our lives. In other instances, the rapid growth of tech has exposed us to security shortcomings.

Even worse, many of them have gone undetected for long periods of time, simply because developers cannot predict how flaws will become apparent or how they will be exploited.

In fact, it is precisely this speedy tech growth rate that hinders well-meaning developers. Even those who take precautions to build software immune to the latest threats cannot feasibly detect what the future holds or the potential repercussions of as-yet unknown factors. Let’s take a look at some of the ways technological advancements have adversely affected security and safety.

Millions of Anti-Malware Software Users Made Vulnerable

An anti-malware product called Malwarebytes has come under fire after representatives from Project Zero, a group led by Google that helps spot security issues, found problems last November. Specifically, the malware client was getting updates via an unencrypted HTTP connection.

Theoretically, the malware definitions were susceptible to tampering from attackers. The researcher who found the flaw only looked at the consumer edition of the program, but as it turns out, the problem also affects the premium version.

Marcin Kleczynski, the CEO and founder of Malwarebytes, called such possibilities a "harsh reality" associated with software development. Kleczynski admitted the flawed software is running on 250 million computers around the world, but advised users to enable a "self-protection" setting to avoid being affected by the issue.

Hola Browser Extension Puts People at Risk

Blocking content due to a person’s geographical location can quickly become a headache if someone from the United States wants to watch a BBC program, or a person in the United Kingdom is keen to see a sitcom on the FOX network. Such scenarios can be made possible through browser extensions that route web traffic so it appears an individual is actually watching the content in a different country.

One such browser extension, called Hola, recently made the news in an unfavorable way when it was revealed Hola users were likely exposing their systems to remote or local hackers. A hacker who gains access could then execute code, view a person’s browsing habits or even remotely download a file to the compromised computer.

In a response similar to that given by company leadership in the example above, Hola’s CEO Ofer Vilenski attributed the problem to “growing pains.” At least in that instance, he clarified Hola representatives are trying to fix the vulnerabilities by going through both an external audit process and an internal security review.

Self-Driving Cars May Be Way Too Easy to Hack

Notable automakers have been racing against the inevitable passage of time, trying to make self-driving cars the way of the future as quickly as possible. Although many people are hopeful that self-driving cars could cut down on traffic, give more freedom to those who are physically unable to operate vehicles and reduce accidents, others have raised questions about self-driving cars and ethics. Sometimes the questions are in regards to autonomous cars’ safety compared to traditional vehicles, but people have also pointed out that ethics can’t be programmed into a car’s computer.

It’s important to note some analysts think self-driving cars could be tempting targets for hackers. The scenarios we’ve already discussed have revealed the disastrous consequences of trying to deal with growth without considering what might happen later. People who have studied the technology used in self-driving cars say the assortment of computers, sensors and software needed to make the vehicles operate all increase the number of ways these futuristic modes of transportation could be hacked. In a worst-case scenario, some people even worry a hack could be so severe, it could allow an outside party to take control of the brakes or engine.

These are just a few examples of how growth spurts in the tech industry aren’t always markers of pure progress. Even as advancements occur, steps must be taken to remain aware of security threats and promptly mitigate risks as they become obvious. As devices continue to become increasing connected to the internet, each other and our daily lives, technology manufacturers must prioritize security in the research and development process. And if the consequences of security incidents continue to impact consumers, security will be a major market force as both a driver of demand for products and services as well as a source of competitive advantage for firms.

Kayla Matthews is the editor of and a self-improvement writer for MakeUseOf. Follow Kayla on Twitter and Facebook to read her latest posts!

Tags:  Cyber Security

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