The Arms Race Escalates:  Cybersecurity Predictions for 2018

By Doros Hadjizenonos, country manager, Check Point South Africa

The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s famous line resonated back in the 19th century Parisian literary circles, and it resonates today in the 21st century cyber security industry. With every new tool and technology introduced into the business IT environment, new vulnerabilities follow -- ripe for cybercriminals and hackers’ hopes of making either a dishonest dollar or cause disruption, fear, uncertainty and doubts in the minds of the general public.

In this ongoing, constantly-escalating security arms race, what do new vulnerabilities in our networks and data-centers look like?  Here are Check Point’s predictions for 2018.

Ransomware & Malware Multiply

Ransomware has been a cash cow for criminals, as well as a disguise for more destructive purposes; for example, Petya looked like ransomware but caused damage by locking up data.  All types of users - from consumers to corporations - have fallen prey to ransomware, causing reasonable suspicion that it will continue to grow.  We can expect to see large, orchestrated worldwide outbreaks along the lines of the early 2017 WannaCryattack.  We can also expect to see criminals getting creative in their extortion tactics, tactics such as “if you infect two contacts, we’ll give you your data back at a lower cost.”

Overall, as operating systems beef up their security, we expect to see a decline in the use of exploits to target vulnerabilities, in favor of an increase in the use of human-error driven basic hacking techniques. However, targeted attacks using sophisticated, nation-state sponsored weaponized tools are emerging, and the rate of attack is likely continue to rise. 

Cloud Concerns

Utilization of server-less computing and data storage in the cloud is becoming more widely adopted in business. However, it’s worth remembering that cloud technology and the infrastructure that supports it is relatively new and evolving, and that there are still serious security concerns that provide a backdoor for hackers to access enterprise systems and spread rapidly across networks.  Misconceptions about the responsibilities and level of security needed operate safely within a cloud environment are common - as are misconfigurations - which leave the door open to breaches. 

During 2017, over 50% of security incidents handled by Check Point’s incident response team were cloud-related, and more than 50% of those were account takeovers of SaaS apps or hosted servers.  With the increased use of cloud-based file sharing services, data leaks will continue to be a major concern for organizations moving to the cloud. This was seen most recently when a breach at consultancy firm, Deloitte  enabled hackers to access confidential records of several clients.

The growing adoption of SaaS-based email such as Office 365 and Google’s G-Suite makes for attractive cybercrime targets, and we expect cybercriminals to ramp up their cloud attacks during 2018. 

Mobile mishaps

Mobile devices are part of the business IT fabric everywhere, yet they continue to be rarely, if ever, secured appropriately, in light of the vulnerability risk they present. We’ll continue to discover flaws in mobile operating systems that highlight the need for organizations to take a more serious approach to the protection of their mobile infrastructure and end-point devices against malware, spyware, and other cyber-attacks. 

Mobile malware will continue to proliferate, especially mobile banking malware, as Malware as a Service (MaaS) keeps trending upward.  MaaS allows threat actors of lower the technical barriers to launching attacks.  Cryptominers also gained prominence in 2017, and we can expect to see more cryptomining malware being dropped onto mobile devices to harvest cryptocurrencies for criminals in the near future. 

Critical Infrastructure

The majority of critical infrastructure networks were designed and built before the threat of cyberattacks. Whether the target involves telephone/mobile phone networks, electrical grids, power plants, or water treatment plants, it speaks to our good luck that there hasn’t been a large-scale, successful attack on critical infrastructure that impacts millions of people… yet. The DDoS attack against domain directory service DynDNS in 2016, which caused an internet outage affecting users of large web businesses such as Netflix and Amazon, provides a glimpse of what is possible in critical infrastructure cyberattack.  An attack of this type and scale will happen, and it would not be surprising to see it happen in the next 12 months.

Internet of (Insecure) Things

As more smart devices are built into the fabric of enterprise networks, organizations will need to start using better security practices for their networks and the devices themselves.

The potential attack surface expands with the growth of IoT device usage, and attacks on compromised IoT devices will continue to grow. We will see more variations of the Mirai and BlueBorne attacks coming our way in 2018.    Better security practices in IoT will be critical for preventing large-scale attacks – and may even need to be enforced by international regulation.

For every business opportunity that our hyper-connected world is creating, that same hyper-connectivity creates criminal opportunity for cyber attackers. Every environment is a potential target:  enterprise networks, cloud, mobile, and IoT connected devices.   Defending these networks require proactivity: pre-emptively blocking threats before they can infect and damage.  By using threat intelligence to power consolidated, unified security measures, businesses can automatically protect against new and emerging types of attack, across all environments.  Proactivity coupled with innovation marks the path to winning the cybersecurity arms race.

 

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