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At the end of the year, it’s traditional to look back and take stock of what happened in the previous 12 months. If you’re in the business of technology, looking back on everything that happened this year might give you vertigo. It was that kind of year.
The 13 entries on this list are comprised of two types: tech trends that came into clear focus this year, and products that did something new and have the potential to be disruptive.
This isn’t meant to be a “best of” list, although the individual products that made the cut are here because they’re a favorite of at least one ZDNet editor.
And we fully realize that your list is likely to be different from ours. Which is why we encourage you to add your own comments in the Talkback section. With that out of the way, let's see what we thought mattered in tech in 2013.
Modern cryptography does an excellent job at keeping secrets, assuming you’re using keys that are sufficiently large and properly randomized. When crypto fails these days, it's usually because someone found a way to tap into the data stream at a point where it was temporarily unprotected.
Edward Snowden’s revelations showed that the NSA and its UK counterparts the GCHQ are very good about exploiting those unencrypted weak spots. They tapped into Google's private, unencrypted lines between data centers. They install Trojans on target computers to get data directly off a device, before it’s encrypted. They’ve even tried to compromise hardware and public crypto standards with secret backdoors.
The solution, as we saw this year, is more and better encryption. Google is rushing to encrypt transmissions between its data centers and pushing Forward Secrecy to harden SSL against key compromise. Microsoft is also encrypting their internal traffic between data centers and pushing the industry to use newer and stronger crypto standards.
Well-implemented TLS/SSL is not impossible to break, but it's impractical to do so — even for the NSA. Unfortunately, there's still a lot of bad crypto out there, hobbled by old and weak standards and careless practices. Even governments make huge, important crypto errors.
There has been a steady increase in the use of encryption to protect data at rest and in transit, and you can look for that to increase steadily next year. Also look for governments to attempt to assert control over security technologies, even if it's an obviously futile exercise.
— Larry Seltzer