A new range of disruptive technologies, collectively labelled The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4iR) is transforming the way we live and work by fusing the physical, digital and natural worlds together. 

They offer myriad potential positive changes including the promise of greater efficiency and productivity, and improvements in service personalisation. But they also represent a new challenge for any organisation that needs to protect users, information, systems and processes. This is because many of these emerging technologies could equally present a significant threat to our safety and security.

This is particularly the case for those organisations that manage the infrastructure on which society runs. The consequences of malicious attacks or innocent errors rise substantially in their operating environments. That makes them obvious targets for those who want to cause disruption or harm.
Based on our experience of helping organisations in critical environments mitigate the risk of complex and emerging threats, QinetiQ has created this new report - Countering the Threat from Emerging Technologies. 

It outlines what we believe are five of the most prevalent emerging technologies and the risks they could present to critical infrastructure organisations. For each one we provide:

  • An overview of the current technology
  • An outline of the potential threats
  • An example of that threat presenting itself in the real world (where available)
  • A clear set of recommendations to mitigate its impact in the future. 

We hope that the organisations responsible for maintaining our infrastructure can use this report get on the front foot when countering the risks of new technology today, and reduce the chances of being caught out by unexpected situations in the future.


Countering the Threats from Emerging Technologies - 5G

In the first of a series of podcasts linked to our new report, Chris Walker, our Engineering and Transformation Director, explains why the power of 5G comes with inherent risks that need to be managed. He outlines what those threats look like, and the practical steps that organisations can take today to mitigate their impact in the future.

4iR Technologies

We have outlined what we believe to be five of the most prevalent 4iR technologies and the risks they could present to critical infrastructure organisations.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are already informing decisions and automating processes in the commercial world. As these technologies spread into critical infrastructure, questions need to be answered about how we build sufficient trust in intelligent systems to reap the rewards without increasing risk.
Internet of Things (IoT)  The trend towards connected machines and objects permeates deep into the industrial and commercial devices on which our infrastructure is based. Control systems, such as those used in power generation and transmission, are utilising internet connectivity (usually wireless) to improve efficiency. Failure to adequately secure these systems will increase their vulnerability to denial-of-service and other types of cyber-attack.
Ubiquitous Electronics. The amount of electronics in our world has been growing at an astounding rate for the last 20 years and underpins the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It enables our homes and workplaces to function efficiently and safely; and it has become the bedrock for many of our critical infrastructure services. While the importance of electronics as an enabling technology cannot be denied, it also represents one of the most obvious yet underestimated sources of vulnerabilities to those services.
Fifth Generation (5G) networks represent a revolution in mobile technology that connects people, machines and services. The potential to change the way we use mobile devices is considerable, but the infrastructure developments that enable 5G means greater potential risk to data and security and a need for greater focus on network assurance.
Unmanned Systems. The rapid development of artificial intelligence and automated systems is increasing the number of unmanned systems in use today. Vehicles and devices that require only partial human input, or that can operate as a fully autonomous system, have become widely available to both corporate and individual users. Like all emerging technologies the potential benefits are substantial; if the accompanying potential risks can be overcome.