Five BIG information security predictions for 2017

Digital freedom
5 mins
A mysterious, shrouded figure observes a glowing orb.

A year ago ExpressVPN made some predictions about what might happen in 2016. Some of these bold prophecies turned out to be correct, others not so much. Still, it was prescient-ish enough to warrant having another go for 2017.

Financial crisis and Bitcoin

1. A major financial crisis will make money worthless, and cryptocurrency will take its place temporarily

In 2016, large and small developing countries showed us that stability is relative. While hyperinflation plagued Venezuela, India removed 80% of its cash in circulation, and Egypt devalued its currency by nearly 50% overnight.

This money-value nightmare might come to a savings account near you, in 2017. Don’t be surprised to see bail-ins, currency devaluation, inflation, currency controls, or closed banks (including unavailable online banking) wiping away your savings.

The internet will still function, of course. So will local commerce and electricity. As credit cards fail and PayPal becomes unreachable, cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, will have their grand debut on the world stage. In fact, encrypted online currencies might become the only meaningful way to transfer money remotely.

There is a good chance that Bitcoin might not be ready, however. As it stands, the network couldn’t handle the influx of a vast number of additional transactions. Fees might skyrocket, and only large transactions would be worth paying the price for. Other, smaller, transactions would have to find a home on other blockchains, such as Litecoin. If ready, second layer transaction networks, like Lightning, could be used on top of Bitcoin.

Apple privacy scandal

2. Apple will have a big privacy scandal

In 2016, Apple made headlines for standing up to the FBI. By refusing to change their software to allow for U.S. law enforcement backdoors, they upheld important legal and moral principles. Apple became a champion for civil rights everywhere, and no doubt boosted sales too.

In 2017, ExpressVPN fears this victory will be short-lived. Standing up for yourself with a blog post and generous support from fellow tech companies, like Apple did, is not enough for a global victory. No amount of public pressure can make all law enforcement agencies around the world stand down.

Apple sells a lot of phones in countries where the only choices are to “comply or get out.” As a public company with a duty to generate income for shareholders, “get out” might not be a viable option.

Perhaps we will find that Apple has been shipping backdoored versions of the iPhone to some countries? Maybe, as a provision of selling the iPhone, data stored in the iCloud is treated differently for users in some countries? Maybe, the end-to-end encrypted messaging platform, iMessage, allows Apple to carry out Man-in-the-middle attacks?

2017 might be the years we find out for sure.

Police could use drones with deadly force.

3. Drones will become as ubiquitous in police forces as armored vehicles

After remote controlled quadcopters become affordable enough to be a part of every kids’ toy arsenal, police forces around the world will follow suit. It’s only a matter of time before law enforcement agencies discover how these cheap (and admittedly, fun) tools can be used for their own purposes: I.E. surveillance, risk assessment, and even open fire.

Not all drones will be airborne, either. For the first time, in July 2016, U.S. police in Dallas used a remote-controlled bomb-defusal vehicle to kill a suspect.

Extrajudicial killings are already a problematic and troublesome part of U.S. law enforcement, and an increased use of drones will reduce the risk to Officers.

Law enforcement departments might argue that drones will make it safer to police dangerous areas. But without eyes on the ground and proper risk assessment, it will become trivial for to deploy lethal force, even when it’s not necessary.

Chances are, if your local police department is already using armored vehicles or riot gear on a regular basis, they will add aerial and ground drones very soon. First, purely for surveillance purposes, but the drones will gradually be armed.


4. Your online chats and emails will be exposed

The data leak of the century is coming.

Forget the Yahoo leaks, which revealed that passwords of up to half a billion people are available for sale online. Forget the Ashley Madison data breach, which exposed the personal data (including payment information) of 37 million individuals who were seeking an affair.

In 2017, we will witness a whole new world of Information Security Depression—which is what you get after seeing the sorry state of security at many web companies.

User’s credentials and payment information have repeatedly been leaked online, but we’re still waiting for a “Maximum Credible Accident”—a full compromise of an online company’s systems and the loss of all user data.

A complete breach could happen to any company, including an email provider, a bank, or a chat provider that doesn’t end-to-end encrypt users’ personal data.

A user can take advantage of two-factor-authentication to secure an individual account. But this solution will not protest against a mass system exposure.

The only safe way to use the internet is to start encrypting all your stuff. This can be a painful and frustrating process at times, especially for email. Though ExpressVPN has excellent guides on PGP, OTR, and Whatsapp and Telegram that will help you secure your most sensitive files and communications.

Global phone data.

5. Global phone coverage will become the norm

Surfing the web while traveling has become a lot cheaper in recent years. The European Union has scrapped all roaming fees within their borders. American users can also find plenty of providers that include unlimited global data, including Google’s new service, Fi.

With cheaper and ubiquitous 3G and LTE coverage, everyone will soon be able to connect to the internet.

Many countries are in the awkward position that the web is easier to obtain through a mobile phone provider than a landline. A mass change in policy is required, as mechanisms like Apple’s software updates, which force Wi-Fi connection for update downloads, risk being unavailable to many.

Cheap access to the world’s treasure trove of information will accelerate the growth in prosperity in developing countries. Shared and essential knowledge could perhaps elevate hundreds of millions above the breadline. The Wikimedia Foundation has agreements with mobile phone networks in 65, mostly developing countries. The agreement allows users of the phone networks to access Wikipedia, even if they don’t pay for data.

How to make sure 2017 isn’t as bad as 2016

Not everything will be bad in 2017 (hopefully). But for those less-than-awesome moments, protect yourself with common sense, take good care of your data, and favor strong encryption.

  • Secure your savings by spreading them across a diverse, simple, and sound investment portfolio
  • Campaign your local government to oppose the militarization of your local police
  • Protest politicians to stop the indiscriminate surveillance of citizens
  • Make delicate conversations on trustworthy end-to-end encrypted platforms with key verification

Why not treat yourself to a superfast ExpressVPN router, too?

Lexie is the blog's resident tech expert and gets excited about empowerment through technology, space travel, and pancakes with blueberries.