Business & Technology

Preparing for the Cy-Phy Future

By Fortinet | April 18, 2019

This blog is a summary of a longer byline article, “If You Like Sci-Fi, Look Out For Cy-Phy” published on the Forbes website on March 20, 2019.


Over the past few decades, cyber technology has been slowly moving from the business or home office to closer proximity and direct interaction with our personal lives. Wearable devices remind us to stand, move, and relax. Lighting, appliances, or heating and air conditioning systems in our homes respond to voice commands. Automobiles monitor road conditions, keep cars in their lanes, and can even automatically brake if we aren’t paying attention.

"We are entering a new era that I like to call “the age of cy-phy” — the convergence of cyber space with a plethora of devices and data in our physical spaces. With cy-phy systems, new technologies designed to operate in (and intimately know) our homes and even our bodies are becoming deeply intertwined with more traditional cybersecurity systems and data.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                        —Phil Quade, Forbes

Cy-Phy Will Change Our Professional and Social Lives

Cy-phy leverages new technologies — things like IoT, AI, and 5G — to fundamentally change how we interact with our surroundings. New technologies being woven into our homes, cars, and businesses will monitor our actions and behaviors and not only respond to our needs (adjusting the lights or temperature) but even begin to anticipate them.

The rudimentary examples mentioned barely scratch the surface, as we begin to collect and analyze data related to integrated sensing and analysis in near-real time—including size, shape, color, brightness, and weight; temperature; smell; speed and vector; loudness; and altitude and proximity. As we create a constant state of integration with this data, the benefits will be profound. Here is just one example:

"In the event of a medical emergency, the nearest health provider could be automatically alerted. Lifesaving data collected from a wearable device or medical implant would be automatically linked to the patient’s comprehensive medical history and sent to physical and virtual caregivers. EMTs could be simultaneously dispatched before an emergency call could even be made, while an automated AI-based medical system would be able to make an assessment and formulate a precise response while caregivers are still en route."

                                                                                                                                                                                    —Phil Quade, Forbes

We have already begin to see the smallest hints of this future in consumer-grade, connected wearables (e.g., ubiquitous health monitoring devices). Cy-phy takes it much further. Microchips in vehicles, clothing, even or physically embedded in your body would simplify many of the activities of daily life — accessing transportation, purchasing goods, identification, or accessing restricted locations, resources, services, or devices.

Cy-phy innovations will offer improvements in three major areas: unprecedented convenience for consumers, increased efficiency for commercial companies, and extended safety for industrial applications.

"It is hard not to over-hype the potential conveniences and efficiencies of this convergence. It will usher in automation in homes and commercial buildings, enable the realization of long-envisioned smart cities, and revolutionize critical services such as healthcare."

                                                                                                                                                                                                    —Phil Quade, Forbes

Extending Cy-Phy to Security

Integrating network and physical sensors will enable security systems to monitoring behaviors over time. When coupled with behavioral analytics, security systems can better detect anomalies, detect security weaknesses, and even predict security issues that might otherwise fall through the cracks. This sort of integrated system will also enhance a security system’s ability to respond to threats at speed and scale without human intervention.

However, cy-phy will also likely create additional security headaches that organizations need to be aware of and begin to prepare for now.

  • Information overload as data volume and the number of connected devices accelerates.
  • Complex, meshed environments will be complicated further as a growing number of IoT devices move into and out of corporate networks, especially at the new network edges.
  • Attack surfaces will grow as organizations expand their multi-cloud strategy and deploy more IoT devices.
  • Access control will become more challenging as the number of edges increase and points of entry continue to grow.
  • The expanded attack surface will increase the risk that intruders will be able to move laterally within the organization once they gain access.

Prepare Now

"We need to recognize the moment: Cy-phy can either become the next wave that overwhelms already at-the-limit security teams, or it can become an enabler of increased security and better business practices."

                                                                                                                                                                                                        —Phil Quade, Forbes

Organizations need to start preparing today by developing security strategies designed around the principles of speed, integration, adaptability, and automation. Just because that future of Cy-Phy will be here before we know it, doesn’t mean we can’t begin to prepare for it now.

This blog is a summary of a longer byline article, “If You Like Sci-Fi, Look Out For Cy-Phy” published on the Forbes website on March 20, 2019.

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