a close up of a microchip

Some trends are fun to watch, but others are downright worrisome. Especially in the world of tech, where the only constant is change. IT professionals across Europe and North America were asked to share 2018 tech trends that keep CIOs and CTOs up at night. Below are the four most common responses.

1. Security, security, security

Chances are, if your company hasn’t been attacked yet, it will soon. According to the 2017 U.S. State of Cybercrime survey, 36% of businesses say they were impacted by a phishing attack last year. That number rose 10% from the previous year.

Kean Graham, CEO of MonetizeMore, believes the rising value of cryptocurrencies will continue to attract more hackers and fuel their desire to succeed. Echoing his prediction of a darker future, Nathan Stallings, president of Matrix Integration, predicts the number of ransomware incidents will at least double in 2018. Stallings expects variations of WannaCry and NotPetya, plus Ransomware as a Service (RaaS) will fuel the spike.

Companies are responding by taking more proactive measures. According to Upwork’s latest skills index, penetration testing and vulnerability assessment rank as the fourth fastest growing skill in the U.S. freelance job market.

“Organizations should focus on prevention methods like security awareness training, detection methods like managed security services, and recovery,” says Stallings. In addition to training employees, be sure to establish security policies for protecting sensitive data when utilizing freelancers and other contractors.

2. New sources of security threats

For 2018, expect to see more focus on cloud security. Especially as companies increase use of remote workers and transition more of their business to the cloud. “The challenge will continue to be defining the security responsibilities of the cloud provider versus the organization,” says Stallings.

With technology in everyone’s pockets, some sources for potential security threats may easily be overlooked. Think about how many times you’ve seen people take pictures of whiteboard sessions on their unsecured personal phone. “Employees won’t change this risky behavior unless there is an easier method to digitize content,” says Adrian Cable, CTO and president of Kaptivo.

The IoT (internet of things) and connected devices also open the doors wider to security threats. Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than 25% of identified attacks in enterprises will involve the IoT. However, companies seem ill prepared as Gartner foresees the IoT will account for less than 10% of IT security budgets.

3. Tougher to get data and analyze it

Current usage indicates that machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) will become an increasing part of daily business operations. While many feel overwhelmed by the amount of data ML and AI produces, Mark Estes, CTO and co-founder of SoCu, believes it’ll make data more difficult to access.

“Data is getting more consolidated within a handful of major corporations. Companies that used to be more open to sharing data are starting to lock down the access to only themselves and a few key partners,” Estes says. “There are also fewer ways to obtain the amount of data needed to truly start leveraging machine learning and AI. Without this data, it is harder to innovate and create new market opportunities by leveraging these new AI technologies.”

If you have enough data, you’ll probably run into another problem: hiring data scientists to analyze it. An MIT Sloan Management Review showed 40% of the companies surveyed were struggling to find and retain data analytics talent.

You probably won’t find any relief in 2018. It’s predicted demand will create 905,000 more jobs involving data management and interpretation skills.

Many companies are accessing talent through the flexible workforce, but there’s competition there too. In Q4 of 2016, data science was the third fastest growing skill in demand on Upwork.

4. GDPR compliance

One of the biggest stressors in 2018 is compounded by a May 25th deadline. The European Union’s new regulation, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), moves companies to better address the entire lifecycle of customer data. GDPR also has the power to enforce heavy financial penalties for personal data breaches.

“As a result, expect substantial new investments in securing data,” says Dr. Salvatore Stolfo, CTO of Allure Security. “We’ll see lots of investments in encryption and other data security technologies such as active defense, or ‘hacking back.’ It comes down to one essential question that CTOs will have to answer: do you know where your data is, and who is accessing it?” says Stolfo.

Surfing the tsunami

Dealing with the four stressors mentioned above is difficult enough, but CIOs and CTOs must also prevail under tight deadlines and tighter budgets. Perhaps one of the biggest worries they face is keeping up without becoming overwhelmed.

To achieve their business objectives without spreading their resources too thin, many IT leaders follow a solid business strategy. Part of that strategy may include utilizing more freelancers and agencies to access niche expertise and complete critical projects faster.