What will be the cyber threats of 2019?
What to look out for and what might lie ahead
At the end 2018, there were various predictions as to the main cyber threats of 2019 and the impact these were likely to have on businesses this year.
What is clear is that cyber security is more important than ever and remains a serious concern both in the UK and worldwide.
According to a survey by Minute Hack, Cyber incidents now rank as the most feared business interruption (50% of responses), followed by fire (40%) and natural catastrophes (38%).
In an online article entitled Cyber Security Predictions: 2019 and Beyond, American software company Symantec predicted that cyber hacks of major corporate systems and websites will inevitably be part of the 2019 cyber security scene, following the breaches of many well-known organisations around the globe in 2018.
Cyber Security Threats to watch out for this year include:
Supply Chain Attacks:
Attackers may continue to search for new and more sophisticated opportunities to infiltrate the supply chain of organisations they are targeting. According to Symantec, an increasingly common target for attackers is the software supply chain, with attackers implanting malware into otherwise legitimate software packages at its usual distribution location.
Such attacks could occur during production at the software vendor or at a third-party supplier. A possible scenario could involve the attacker replacing a legitimate software update with a malicious version in order to distribute it quickly and surreptitiously to intended targets. Any user receiving the software update will automatically have their computer infected, giving the attacker a foothold in their environment.
This remains one of the biggest cyber security threats to businesses.
Ransomware works by blocking access to the target’s files by encrypting them. The hackers then threaten to delete these files unless a ransom is paid to ‘unlock’ them.
The majority of ransomware is sent through the email attachments, and once you open the email, the virus downloads itself and starts corrupting the files on the computer.
The Capture of Data in Transit
Hackers are likely to exploit home-based Wi-Fi routers and other poorly secured consumer IoT (Internet of Things) devices in new ways.
According to Symantec, in 2019 and beyond we can expect increasing attempts to gain access to home routers and other IoT hubs to capture some of the data passing through them. Malware inserted into such a router could, for example, steal banking credentials, capture credit card numbers or display spoofed, malicious web pages to the user to compromise confidential information. Attackers will continue to evolve; honing their techniques in order to steal consumer data when it's in transit.
Phising and Whaling
Phishing is generally an attempt to gain personal data by posing as a known authrority like a bank or online service. Phishing emails can look very convincing, copying branding and 'spoofing' email addresses to make them look genuine. Whaling is so-called because of the size of its target. This is a form of spear-phishing which targets an individual in order to steal sensitive company information such as the financial or personal details of employees.
Whaling emails and their website links are more difficult to detect than a typical phishing attack because they are highly customised and personalised, often incorporating the target's name, job title or other relevant information which can be easily gleaned from places such as Facebook, LinkedIn and twitter. Whaling takes more time and effort, so the emails often appear legitimate. As Whaling has become more successful, so the attacks have increased.
IOT (Internet of Things) Attacks
Poorly secured IoT devices could be targeted for harmful purposes, such as attacks against IoT devices that bridge the digital and physical worlds. Some of these IoT enabled objects are kinetic, such as cars and other vehicles, while others control critical systems. We may see a growing number of attacks against IoT devices that control critical infrastructure such as power distribution and communications networks.
Cryptojacking, otherwise known as ‘Cryptomining malware’, uses both invasive methods of initial access, and drive-by scripts on websites, to steal resources from unsuspecting victims. Cryptojacking runs in the background and is a quieter, more insidious means of profit affecting endpoints, mobile devices, and servers. Security Magazine.com lists Cryptojacking as one the biggest cyber threats to watch out for in 2019, due to its ease of deployment and low-risk profile.
Use of cryptocurrencies for everyday transactions is becoming more commonplace, so we are likely to see attacks against individuals and organizations who use cryptocurrency as a standard element of their business operations and transactions.
AI (Artificial Intelligence) Systems
AI-powered systems are already in use in many areas of business operations. AI systems are attractive to attackers as many are home to huge amounts of data. Vulnerabilities in AI technologies will become a growing concern in 2019, with the fear that attackers won’t just target AI systems, they could enlist AI techniques themselves for their own criminal activities.
The ‘H Factor' – The Human Element
This remains ones of the weakest links, making cyber-attacks and data breaches possible, sometimes even more so than hackers exploiting system vulnerabilities or employing new malware. In a report by itportal.com, human errors were cited as a major factor in most data breaches, exposing organisations to cyber threats through three main types of risks: human error, ignorance and intentional harm.
Employees remain the first line of defence and educating them regularly about potential cyberattacks is vital. A culture that encourages and supports employees in being open (and fast to act) when they have made a mistake is essential.
Single Factor Passwords
2019 may very well usher in the death of the password. The use of single-factor passwords is a large security risk. It gives intruders easy access to data. To reverse the situation, organisations need to be more serious with the passwords. Use of multi-factor authentication is the best way to go about it.
Unfortunately, Cloud storage is susceptible to abuse. A large risk factor is that Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), which is responsible for functionality, has no secure registration process. What does that imply? Provided you have a credit card, you have the key to signing up and using the cloud as soon as you are done. The simplicity, in turn, makes the cloud vulnerable to spam mails, criminals, and other malicious attacks.
To mitigate the situation, it is advisable that cloud service providers develop authentication and registration processes. Additionally, they should have a way of monitoring credit card transactions. A thorough evaluation of network traffic is also crucial in eliminating cyber abuse.