Cyber Security is now part of all our lives. “Patches” and other security updates arrive for phones, tablets, and PCs. Consultants remind us all not to open unknown files or plug unfamiliar memory sticks into our computers. The bosses of some Western firms throw away phones and laptops after they have been to China assuming they have been hacked. And yet, as our special report this week points out, digital walls keep on being breached. Last year more than 800m digital records, such as credit- and debit card details were pinched or lost, more than three times as many as in 2012. According to a recent estimate by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank, the cost to the global economy of cybercrime and online industrial espionage stands at $445 billion a year—about as much as the GDP of Austria.
Now a new phase in this contest is emerging: “the internet of things”. This involves embedding miniature computers in objects and connecting them to the internet using wireless technology. Cisco, a technology company, predicts that 50 billion connected devices will be in circulation by the end of the decade, up from 11 billion last year. Web-connected cars and smart appliances in homes are becoming more common, as are medical devices that can be monitored by doctors many miles from their patients. Tech companies are splurging cash: witness Google’s punt on driverless cars and the $3.2 billion it has spent buying Nest, a maker of smart thermostats.