The world of science fiction surprises us once again by teaching us important lessons about cybersecurity. In the hit series “Star Trek: Picard,” we can find valuable reflections on the cyber threats we face today, reflections recently published in The Conversation. From infiltration and insider threats to the importance of resilience and preparedness, the Star Trek universe offers us a unique perspective on the challenges of cybersecurity in our increasingly connected world.
Before you continue reading, be warned, There are spoilers for the series. in this article.
The threat of infiltration
In the plot of the series, we find the return of the Borg, a cybernetic collective of half-human and half-machine beings, who tries to conquer humanity once again. What is interesting is how they achieve their objective: through a prolonged and stealthy infiltration within Starfleet, the military organization that protects the Federation of United Planets.
This infiltration is accomplished by modifying the DNA of certain Starfleet members using the teleportation device. For years, a select group of personnel have been altered without anyone suspecting it. This situation mirrors the way the most effective cyber attackers operate in the real world. While it’s relatively easy to detect external hack attempts, the real concern lies with enemies who manage to infiltrate critical systems from the inside.
To do this, attackers can insert malicious code into software during manufacturing or in updates, without arousing suspicion until the compromised systems are activated or used for malicious purposes. This underscores the importance of ensuring the security and integrity of digital supply chains, from product development to deployment, to avoid the presence of silent ‘drones’, such as malware, waiting to be activated by an adversary.
The threat from within
“Star Trek: Picard” also shows us the insidious nature of the insider threat facing organizations today. Although the characters are not infected with a cyber virus, we see the damage that a trusted employee with malicious intent can cause. Attacks by compromised or malicious individuals can go unnoticed for years. Some global adversaries, such as China and Russia, are known for their long-term perspective when planning and carrying out espionage activities or cyberattacks.
It is critical that organizations are prepared to detect and prevent insider threats, as well as have robust security measures in place to protect against potential infiltration from within. Trust should not be a substitute for constant vigilance and verification.
Human weakness and the importance of resilience
Despite technological advances, “Star Trek: Picard” reminds us that human beings are still the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain. Even with advanced systems, the existence of human failures and vulnerabilities represent a constant risk. Well-intentioned plans can be thwarted if adversaries exploit human error or manipulate technologies against them.
The series highlights the importance of resilience and the ability to maintain operations even in crisis situations. In the plot, Picard’s crew resort to an ancient ship, the Enterprise-D, which is not connected to the compromised systems, allowing them to operate independently during a crisis. This idea leads us to reflect on the need to have contingency plans and alternative systems to guarantee the continuity of operations in the event of cyberattacks.
We cannot exclusively rely on fully interconnected environments or a single provider of critical services. We must consider the possibility of having systems out of the reach of adversaries and prepare to face unforeseen or unknown situations.
Broadening our perspective
One of the most valuable lessons that “Star Trek: Picard” teaches us is the importance of expanding our perspective and knowledge beyond technology. To meet cybersecurity challenges, we need to understand not only the technical aspects of cyberattacks and response measures, but also the broader, systemic factors that may be at play.
The series shows how the characters find innovative solutions based on their interests in music, art, archaeology, history, and other non-technical fields. Similarly, in the realm of cybersecurity, a solid understanding of non-technical disciplines, such as history, psychology, law, and management, can help organizations plan and respond effectively to ever-evolving threats. .
Interdisciplinary knowledge allows us to comfortably adapt to constantly changing technologies and emerging threats. Cybersecurity is not only a technical challenge, but also a human and organizational challenge that requires a holistic approach.
As you can see, “Star Trek: Picard” offers us valuable lessons on cybersecurity in an increasingly connected world. The series shows us the threat of infiltration, the importance of addressing insider threats, human vulnerability in cybersecurity, and the need for resilience and preparedness.
In general, it reminds us that facing cybersecurity challenges requires a broad perspective and knowledge beyond technology. By combining strong technical knowledge with a foundation in the humanities and non-technical disciplines, we can be better prepared to address the challenges of cybersecurity in an ever-evolving world.