Final Conference of the FESTOS project

On the 8th of December the final conference of the FP7 FESTOS project (Forsight of Evolving Security threats Posed by Emerging Technologies) took place in Brussels. (More information about the FESTOS project can be found on the project homepage: http://www.festos.org/.)

As mentioned in the project description, in FESTOS it was planned to identify and assess evolving security threats posed by the abuse or inadequate use of emerging technologies and new scientific knowledge, which basically means to do research on the dark side of technology. The workshop with the topic “Technology Foresight: Security Threats and Responses” was structured in three sessions, based on the main FESTOS objectives,

  • identification of future security threats posed by emerging technologies
  • presentation of narrative scenarios
  • assessment of the need for knowledge control
  • and evaluation of policy measures to cope with the threats

At the conference some nice weak signals for upcomming possible threats, caused by emerging technologies were presented. Sorted by the time of sufficient maturity, these are the weak signals:

2012

Smartphone technologies mash-ups
“New mobile phones could enable “open source intelligence” to be carried out discretely and without any special equipment. A smartphone with video camera and GPS device can can enable terrorists or criminals to easily collect location-based video imagery of possible target areas. New combinations with advanced augmented reality and other features could be even more useful for planning and executing malicious actions.” [FESTOS Alert Report, 2011]
Time of sufficient maturity: 2012; Easiness of abuse: 3.7; Threat severity: 3.5

Cloud Computing
“As private and public organisations are handing storage and other tasks to outside providers, new opportunities arise for hacking and cyber-attacks.” [FESTOS Alert Report, 2011]
Time of sufficient maturity: 2012; Easiness of abuse: 3.3; Threat severity: 3.5

2018

Internet of Things
Experts have warned that the security risks of the internet of things are first of all related to privacy issues.” However even a simple act of shutting down important IoT services by terrorists, might create chaos.[FESTOS Alert Report, 2011]
Time of sufficient maturity: 2018; Easiness of abuse: 3.6; Threat severity: 3.5

Synthetic Biology
“Such technologies in wrong hands could facilitate production of current and new biological warfare agents, without special need of large biotech production facilities. Engeniered organisms could be released into the enviroment with orders to attack.” [FESTOS Alert Report, 2011]
Time of sufficient maturity: 2018; Easiness of abuse: 3.2; Threat severity: 3.4

2023

Cyborg Insects
Cyborg insects, controlled through neuro-implants, “could be used by perpetrators for harming people, spying or other malicious activities. Swarms of such insects could be directed at agricultural areas for harmful purposes, e.g. to damage crops.” [FESTOS Alert Report, 2011]
Time of sufficient maturity: 2023; Easiness of abuse: 3.3; Threat severity: 3.1

Molecular Manufacturing
“Molecular manufacturing could be used to create new hazardous materials, or new types of weapons. If versatile and sufficiently small nanofactories are developed, such items could be created anytime anywhere, including in sensitive locations places where no weapons are allowed.” [FESTOS Alert Report, 2011]
Time of sufficient maturity: 2023; Easiness of abuse: 2.5; Threat severity: 2.5

2030

Swarm Robotics
“Robot swarms may pose a threat in the future, if the self adaption and self-reprogramming are employed for malitious behaviour of the swarm. They could perform new kinds of coordinated attacks in which for example each robot carries a small dose of explosives, combined together to cause a large damage.” [FESTOS Alert Report, 2011]
Time of sufficient maturity: 2030; Easiness of abuse: 2.9; Threat severity: 3

Programmable Matter
“Programmable matter can provide a perfect camouflage of any object, e.g. in areas where weapons are prohibited.” [FESTOS Alert Report, 2011]
Time of sufficient maturity: 2030; Easiness of abuse: 2.3; Threat severity: 2.8

Self-replicating Nano-assemblers
Self-replicating may include certain dangourges. “While uncontroled runaway replication is considered by experts as highly unlikely and can be prevented by appropriate safeguards, one can not preclude intentional malicous design of such devices for wrong doings.” [FESTOS Alert Report, 2011]
Time of sufficient maturity: 2030; Easiness of abuse: 2.75; Threat severity: 2.9

Nanotechnology-enabled Brain Implants
Brain implants could be used for thought- or behavioural-control of humans. Brainwashed people can cause social unrests, violence, etc. . Terrorists might use this technic to get “super mental power”. [FESTOS Alert Report, 2011]
Time of sufficient maturity: 2030; Easiness of abuse: 2.7; Threat severity: 3

In Session 1 the overall results of the project about the sources of future security threats were discussed. As a selection of specific results, Aharon Hauptman did talk about “Technology horizon scanning – emerging technologies and future threats” and Roman Peperhove presented his results on possible “Cyber-Insects attacks”. A more in detail list of these results is available on the project home page.

Session 2 was more about the epistemic and ethical implication of the project with a discussion about the “Freedom of knowledge in the era of emerging technologies”. Ewa Rokicka and Tal Soffer had their presentation about “The knowledge control dilemma” and in an enlightening panel discussion the drawbacks between scientific freedom of speech and security needs of society were discussed. On the on hand, it is necessary to do research about the dark side of technology.

Finally in Session 3 the policy implication were discussed with insights into how to prepare for future threats. Burkhard Auffermann had a presentation about “Coping with the threats: FESTOS policy recommendations and after some presentations about cyber security, as an example for a “not so new” thread alert, a wide range of national policy perspectives were discussed and examples of policy implementations due to FESTOS results were mentioned.

So the overall impression of the final conference was, that there are quite some valuable results and the direction of research is important to increase the resilience of our society. We wish the FESTOS Consortium good luck in their FESTOS 2 proposal.

Jari Kaivo-oja, a Foresight specialist in the FESTOS Consortium has graciously agreed to write a brief about FESTOS later on, which you will find then in the brief section of EFP.

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Categories: Eventreport, Events

Author : Joachim Klerx