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The events of 2020 have certainly demonstrated the risks of trying to accurately predict upcoming events. However, it can still be insightful to try to evaluate future trends in security, HLS and cyber technologies expected in 2021. How did the COVID-19 pandemic influence these fields? Has the pandemic mostly accelerated existing trends or fundamentally changed the direction of technological innovation?

Armed Robots – 2020 might reasonably be described as the year the armed drone went global, as a widespread weapon of war rather than a specialist tool operated only by the wealthiest states. The use of armed drones in Syria and in the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia has accelerated the development of new armed drones. 

But the overall robotization of warfare is an uneven process. If armed aerial drones have become commonplace, the same cannot be said for armed ground or naval robots. There are sound technical reasons for this – safe, autonomous navigation on land is much more difficult than in the air, and aerial platforms have obvious military applications in surveillance and strike.

Given the lack of a legal framework to prohibit arming such units, and the proliferation of low-cost, high-precision compact weapons, their operational debut might well occur in some capacity in the next 12 months, thediplomat.com evaluates.

Trust – Customers and end-users are demanding transparency around how tech is used and how data is managed, especially with increased surveillance. This, together with the need to maintain privacy, will be a key challenge.

Universality – Recent years have seen applications and services largely designed for specific environments, whether server-based, in the cloud or at the edge. Driven by a desire to achieve optimal performance, scalability, and flexibility, along with the benefits of accessing and using data at any time and from anywhere, the next year will see momentum towards horizontal integration between environments, according to crn.in.

Increased focus on robust cybersecurity – Due to the potential for high financial returns and disruption of critical infrastructure, new capabilities, tactics and threats will continue to emerge and require constant vigilance.

AI will be employed by cybercriminals as much as in any sector, strengthening their ability to find and exploit vulnerabilities. Deep fakes will become even more sophisticated and realistic, potentially calling into doubt video surveillance evidence. As a result, further developments in methods to verify content, devices and applications in order to maintain trust in their authenticity will be required.

Phishing lures will become more difficult to spot. 

Traditionally, cybersecurity has been based on a ‘perimeter’ model, where the network is protected by a single, hopefully impenetrable wall made up of firewalls, VPNs/VLANs, air-gaps, software-defined networks and other technologies. But this model is challenged, and a single breach can result in the entire network being compromised.

The move to zero-trust networks will therefore accelerate, where the security profile for each device and application is independently evaluated. 

Ransomware – The pandemic made organizations more vulnerable, making 2020 a boom year for ransomware attacks, mostly in terms of increased volume. Attackers have shifted tactics recently, improving the implementation of their encryption schemes. Rather than simply encrypt critical data, some criminals now steal sensitive data and threaten to release it if the ransom is not paid. Ransomware distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks have also become more widespread recently, according to a csoonline.com evaluation.

AI role – With Machine Learning (ML) and Deep Learning (DL) now broadly available in surveillance technology, the implications of its use will be a factor in 2021. Using these capabilities in edge devices can assist in identifying objects and reducing false positives. As a result, security experts can move to a proactive, event-based way of working, rather than continuous manual monitoring.

Social distancing – The implementation of low- or no-contact technologies, especially in areas such as access control, will increase. In addition, surveillance solutions with people-counting capabilities will become the norm, to ensure adherence to social distancing regulations.