What is the future of technology? In our latest Business Leaders episode, we discuss tech, cyber security, autonomous systems and much more with Alert Logic Data Scientist and Founder and Director of Farset Labs, Andrew Bolster.

Technology, that ever-churning engine of progress, has always marched forward at a brisk pace. But buckle up, folks, because the next few years promise to be an absolute tech tsunami, churning with advancements so swift they’ll leave your head spinning. From artificial intelligence weaving its way into every facet of life to quantum computing shattering current processing barriers, the future of technology is brimming with mind-bending possibilities.

Just consider:

  • AI on steroids: Imagine machines surpassing human intelligence, not just in games but in scientific discovery, medical diagnosis, and even creative artistry. Prepare for chatbots holding nuanced conversations, robots writing symphonies, and algorithms predicting your next move before you even think it.
  • Quantum leap: Get ready for computers that don’t just crunch numbers, but manipulate the very fabric of reality on a quantum level. This revolutionary technology promises breakthroughs in materials science, medicine, and encryption so profound they’ll rewrite the rulebook on what’s possible.
  • The connected universe: Brace yourself for an internet woven into the very fabric of our world. Sensors embedded in everything, from bridges to your toothbrush, will generate a constant stream of data, transforming cities into interconnected living organisms. Prepare for self-driving cars communicating with traffic lights, personalized healthcare based on real-time biometrics, and a world where the line between physical and digital blurs irrevocably.

To find out more fascinating insights from industry expert Andrew, watch our full Business Leaders interview below or on YouTube. Or, you can read on for the highlights.

Andrew Bolster, AKA ‘Online Superhero’

When introducing his work and expertise across both his roles at Alert Logic and Farset Labs, Andrew describes his role to be much like that of an ‘online superhero’.

Cyber Security with Andrew Bolster

“In my current role at Alert Logic we’re managing and securing tens of thousands of networks across the world, trying to keep track of the bad guys out there and be on the bleeding edge of anything that can possibly go wrong on the internet.”

Balancing between both agency and charity work, Andrew does not shy away from lending his expertise to those who need it.

“My other darker hat is as a Founding Director of Farset Labs, which is a hackerspace charity based in Belfast. Fortunately, I’m now spending time in more of a governance role and trying to do more long-term strategic planning.”

But what work does Farset Labs do? It focuses on the education of the public in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), and the provision of community accessible workspaces to facilitate STEAM outreach and learning.

“From the early days we were mucking in on everything from our Coder Dojo educational outreach programme, going out to schools and developing the original versions of the Raspberry Jam events that have now scaled up to fantastic things.”

But it doesn’t stop there. Andrew also sits on the Department of Finance Open Data Advisory Board: “In this role I am trying to get the government to be a little bit more transparent about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.”

Between these vastly different roles, Andrew’s clear goal is to promote the positive use of technology across many industries.

andrew bolster
Andrew Bolster uses his expertise to help further specialisms in the STEAM industries. Image credit: Twitter

Hackathons to Pique Interest and Promote Learning 

At Farset Labs, Andrew found a unique way to blend events with networking and learning for those interested in cyber security and technology.

“We were one of the first people to push ‘hackathons’ – as not just a recruitment tool or a gimmick that sometimes they are used as, but as a method for learning.

“We also use this for a professional standpoint, they might be working in a very specific field of expertise – whether it’s finance or engineering, and sometimes people just want to let their hair down and try something completely different.”

Additionally, Andrew understands the high interest for games development, yet the little to no opportunities available for people to explore it. To fill this gap, he created what he calls “a global game jam”.

“It is a games development hackathon that runs over 48 hours. It is done in tandem with about 12,000 sites across the world. 

“We are the only ones with an open site in NI and we have been running it for six years. This is where people come together to try and bash out a video game, a card or a tabletop game all based around a theme. Basically it gives people the space to play and experiment.”

While Andrew focuses a lot of his efforts on making tech available to people of all ages, he says that getting young people interested and involved is always a challenge.

“There’s always work still to do. One of the most interesting yet frustrating things about software in general is that you are always late. There is always someone coming down the tracks who is deeply involved in one very specific thing, and that could enable a whole new industry.

andrew bolster speaking at event on future of technology
The future of technology is all about engaging those who are interested in the industry, as young talent can lead to tremendous breakthroughs. Image credit: Agenda NI

The Future of Technology

To give an example of the power and scope of the future of technology, Andrew touched on ‘deep fakes’.

“Part of the Adobe Suite was announced at their conference, I think it was last year, and as part of the live demo they had a fairly standard piece of speech detection. They loaded in an audio file and it gave you the transcription, then the guy changed a word and the audio read out that new phrase sounding like the original speaker. It was effectively modelling the speaker’s vocal patterns and going ‘what would it sound like if this person said dog instead of cat’.”

With the constant advancements in technology – from voice search to augmented reality – it is fascinating to think what Andrew and one of his proteges may end up discovering. 

“There’s another technology called GANs, or Generative Adversarial Networks, where one of the applications is being able to generate photorealistic images based on effectively doodles. For example shading a region of an empty square and saying ‘tree’, ‘mountain’ and stuff like that. The network would effectively go and chase down images it thinks could be used as bits of trees or mountains.”

To hear more about GANs, cyber security and much more see Andrew’s full video interview. For more information about Andrew’s work, visit Farset Labs and Alert Logic official websites.

AI Detectors

The Human Element: The Achilles’ Heel of Cybersecurity

While firewalls and antivirus software form a crucial line of defense, the true vulnerability in any cybersecurity system lies not in the technology itself, but in the human element. Our emotional tendencies, cognitive biases, and lack of awareness can be exploited by cybercriminals, leaving even the most robust defenses breached. Let’s dive into the three main areas where the human element can create cybersecurity risks:

1. Social Engineering: This cunning manipulation tactic preys on human nature, tricking users into divulging sensitive information or performing actions that compromise security. Phishing emails that mimic legitimate sources, phone calls posing as customer service representatives, and even seemingly harmless social media interactions can all be tools used to steal passwords, download malware, or gain access to confidential data.


  • A “bank” email notifying you of an urgent account issue leads you to click a malicious link and enter your login credentials.
  • A friendly “colleague” on social media sends you a document claiming to contain important company information, but it’s actually malware that infects your system.
  • A convincing phone call claiming to be your internet provider requests remote access to “fix” your connection, giving the caller control over your entire computer.

2. Insider Threats: Not all threats come from outside. Malicious insiders, whether disgruntled employees, contractors with access to sensitive data, or even individuals swayed by financial incentives, can pose a significant risk. Their knowledge of internal systems and security protocols makes them particularly dangerous, as they can bypass many traditional security measures.


  • An employee with access to customer data sells it on the black market for personal gain.
  • A disgruntled ex-employee plants malware on the company network before leaving, causing widespread disruption and data loss.
  • A contractor entrusted with confidential information uses it to launch a competitive business against the company.

3. User Awareness: Lack of basic cybersecurity awareness makes individuals easy targets for even simple attacks. Failing to use strong passwords, falling for suspicious links, and neglecting software updates can create vulnerabilities that cybercriminals can easily exploit.


  • Using the same password for multiple accounts, making it easier for hackers to gain access to everything if one password is compromised.
  • Clicking on a random link in an email without verifying its legitimacy, potentially downloading malware or compromising personal information.
  • Ignoring urgent software update notifications, leaving outdated systems vulnerable to known security exploits.

Securing the Human Element:

Combating these human-centric threats requires a multi-pronged approach:

  • Training and awareness programs: Educating employees and individuals about cybersecurity risks, social engineering tactics, and best practices for online security is crucial.
  • Stronger authentication protocols: Implementing multi-factor authentication and other security measures can make it harder for intruders to gain access to sensitive information.
  • Security monitoring and vigilance: Proactive monitoring of system activity and user behavior can help identify suspicious activity and potential insider threats.

Privacy vs. Security: A Delicate Dance in the Digital Age

In the bustling digital marketplace, two crucial concerns take center stage: privacy and security. They are the yin and yang of the online world, existing in a complex tango where one step often impacts the other. In this age of ubiquitous data collection and constant connectivity, striking the right balance between these competing forces is a daunting yet essential task.

Protecting the Self vs. Protecting the Whole:

Privacy refers to the right to control one’s personal information, to decide how it is collected, used, and shared. It’s about shielding your life, your preferences, and your unique digital footprint from unwanted intrusions and prying eyes.

Security, on the other hand, focuses on preventing unauthorized access to data and systems. It’s about building walls around our digital assets, erecting firewalls against cyberattacks, and safeguarding information from theft, manipulation, or misuse.

The inherent tension lies in the fact that enhanced security often requires some sacrifice of privacy. Implementing stricter data collection policies, deploying intrusive surveillance measures, or utilizing advanced biometric authentication methods can all strengthen security, but at the cost of individual privacy and autonomy.

Navigating the Ethical Minefield:

Consider these real-world conundrums:

  • Facial recognition technology: While it can enhance security in public spaces, it also raises concerns about mass surveillance and the potential for misuse by authorities.
  • Social media data collection: Platforms gather vast amounts of user data for targeted advertising, but this raises questions about consent, transparency, and the right to delete personal information.
  • Encryption vs. law enforcement: Strong encryption protects privacy but can hinder investigations into criminal activity, sparking debates about balancing individual rights with societal safety.

Seeking Harmony in the Digital Symphony:

So, how do we navigate this delicate dance? It requires a multi-faceted approach:

  • Transparency and accountability: Consumers deserve clear information about how their data is collected, used, and protected. Companies must be transparent in their practices and held accountable for data breaches or misuse.
  • Stronger regulations and data protection laws: Governments have a role to play in setting clear boundaries and enforcing strict regulations on data collection, storage, and sharing.
  • Technological innovation: Developing privacy-enhancing technologies like anonymization, zero-knowledge proofs, and decentralized data storage can offer solutions without compromising security.
  • Individual vigilance and awareness: Ultimately, individuals must be empowered to understand and manage their online privacy settings, choose services that respect their data, and advocate for their rights in the digital sphere.

Striving for the perfect balance between privacy and security is an ongoing journey. By fostering open dialogue, embracing ethical and sustainable technological solutions, and empowering individuals to take control of their online lives, we can create a digital future where these seemingly opposing forces can coexist in harmony, allowing us to enjoy the immense benefits of technology without sacrificing our fundamental right to privacy.

Ethics in the Digital Arena: Navigating the Moral Minefield of Cyber Technologies

The relentless march of innovation has gifted us with groundbreaking cyber technologies, revolutionizing everything from communication to healthcare. Yet, as these powerful tools surge forward, they cast a long shadow of ethical concerns, forcing us to confront a crucial question: are we harnessing the power of technology for good, or paving the way for a dystopian future?

Pandora’s Box of Digital Dilemmas:

Consider the ethical minefield unleashed by these advancements:

  • Artificial intelligence: While AI promises incredible improvements in various fields, its potential for biased algorithms, autonomous weapons, and job displacement raise concerns about fairness, accountability, and human control.
  • Surveillance and data privacy: Mass data collection via facial recognition, social media monitoring, and location tracking offers security benefits but threatens individual privacy, freedom of expression, and potential social engineering manipulation.
  • Cyberwarfare and digital manipulation: Cyberattacks that cripple critical infrastructure and weaponized AI capable of sowing misinformation and discord challenge international security and social stability.
  • Digital inequality and access: Not everyone has equal access to these technologies, potentially exacerbating existing socioeconomic disparities and creating a global digital underclass.

The Imperative of Responsible Development:

These challenges demand a shift in mindset, a commitment to developing and deploying cyber technologies with responsible and ethical considerations at the forefront. Here are some guiding principles:

  • Transparency and accountability: Developers and governments must be transparent about how these technologies work, who controls them, and how they impact individuals and society.
  • Human oversight and control: Humans, not algorithms, must remain in control of critical decisions, ensuring AI aligns with ethical values and societal norms.
  • Privacy and security safeguards: Robust privacy protections and data security measures must be built into every technology to protect individuals from unwarranted surveillance and data breaches.
  • Inclusive development and access: Technological advancements should benefit everyone, not just a select few. Strategies must be employed to bridge the digital divide and ensure equitable access for all.
  • International cooperation and regulation: Global collaboration is crucial to establish ethical frameworks, legal frameworks, and standards for responsible development and implementation of cyber technologies.

A Future Worth Fighting For:

Embracing these ethical considerations doesn’t stifle innovation; it steers it towards a more just and sustainable future. By actively engaging in this conversation, demanding responsible development practices, and holding both creators and users accountable, we can ensure that the vast potential of cyber technologies is used for good, empowering humanity and shaping a future where technology serves us, not the other way around.

Future Predictions: Peering into the Crystal Ball of Cybersecurity

The future of technology is a kaleidoscope of possibilities, promising incredible advancements that will reshape our lives. But just as every innovation brings benefits, it also casts a shadow of potential challenges, and none loom larger in the digital age than cybersecurity. So, fasten your seatbelts, grab your digital tinfoil hats (metaphorically speaking, of course), and let’s embark on a speculative journey into the cybersecurity landscape of tomorrow:

1. Quantum Quandary: Quantum computing, with its mind-bending ability to break current encryption standards, could leave our digital vaults wide open. Imagine financial transactions compromised, confidential data exposed, and entire communication networks rendered vulnerable. Preparing for this paradigm shift will require developing entirely new forms of encryption and rethinking our approach to digital security from the ground up.

2. The Rise of the Machines: Artificial intelligence isn’t just a sci-fi trope anymore. AI-powered cyberattacks, able to learn and adapt in real-time, could outsmart even the most sophisticated defense systems. Conversely, AI could become a powerful ally, analyzing vast amounts of data to predict and prevent attacks before they even happen. Finding the right balance between utilizing and defending against AI will be crucial in the future of cybersecurity.

3. The Internet of Everything: As more and more devices, from your fridge to your toothbrush, become connected, the attack surface expands exponentially. Imagine botnets comprised of millions of compromised “smart” devices launching devastating attacks on critical infrastructure. Securing this hyperconnected world will require robust security protocols embedded in every aspect of the internet of things and rigorous vulnerability assessments throughout the production and deployment cycle.

4. Biometric Blues: Fingerprint scanners, facial recognition, and iris scans – these once futuristic authentication methods are becoming commonplace. But their reliance on our unique biological markers carries inherent risks. Imagine stolen biometrics used to bypass security systems or commit identity theft on a massive scale. Future biometric authentication must involve robust encryption, secure storage, and clear legal frameworks to mitigate these risks.

5. The Ethical Conundrum: As technology advances, ethical concerns will increasingly intertwine with cybersecurity. AI-powered surveillance, deepfakes used for disinformation campaigns, and the potential for autonomous weapons raise urgent questions about privacy, manipulation, and control. Navigating these ethical minefields will require open dialogue, international collaboration, and the development of clear guidelines for responsible technology development and deployment.

The Future is Now:

These are just a glimpse into the potential cybersecurity challenges and opportunities that await us. While the future may seem daunting, remember that every challenge presents an opportunity for innovation and growth. By anticipating these emerging threats, proactively developing mitigation strategies, and fostering ethical development and use of technology, we can build a future where technology empowers us, not endangers us.

FAQs: Demystifying the Future of Cybersecurity

Q: Will quantum computers make all current cybersecurity measures obsolete?

A: While quantum computing represents a significant threat to traditional encryption methods, the technology is still in its early stages. Scientists are actively researching post-quantum cryptography solutions, and the transition will likely be gradual, allowing time to adapt and implement new security protocols.

Q: Can AI be used to both launch and defend against cyberattacks?

A: Yes, AI offers immense potential for both sides of the cyber battlefield. Malicious actors can use AI to develop intelligent malware and automate attacks, while cybersecurity experts can leverage AI to analyze vast amounts of data, identify emerging threats, and predict cyberattacks before they occur.

Q: What can individuals do to prepare for the cybersecurity challenges of the future?

A: Individual vigilance is crucial. Practice good cyber hygiene, use strong passwords with two-factor authentication, update software regularly, and be wary of suspicious online activity. Stay informed about emerging threats and advocate for stronger security measures from the services you use.

Q: Who is responsible for securing the “Internet of Everything”?

A: Securing the interconnected world of devices requires a multi-stakeholder approach. Manufacturers must build security into their products, consumers must practice responsible usage, and governments need to establish clear regulations and standards.

Q: How can we ensure ethical development and use of advanced technologies like AI in the cybersecurity realm?

A: Open dialogue, transparency, and international collaboration are key. We need to establish clear ethical frameworks, prioritize human oversight and control over AI systems, and hold both developers and users accountable for responsible technology use.

Conclusion: Embracing the Future, Securely

The future of technology is a thrilling and terrifying prospect in equal measure. While advancements hold the promise of unimaginable progress, they also bring complex cybersecurity challenges. But amidst the uncertainty, remember this: we are not helpless passengers on this technological rollercoaster.

By anticipating threats, proactively developing solutions, and fostering ethical development and use of technology, we can shape a future where the digital world empowers us, not endangers us. Let’s approach the future of cybersecurity with a healthy dose of skepticism, a spirit of innovation, and a unwavering commitment to building a safer and more secure digital world for all.

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