Criminal hackers are finding increasingly sophisticated ways to infiltrate cyber targets. In 2018, organizations can expect even more menacing, intense cyber attacks as threat actors seek new ways to target victims. Here are five cybersecurity threats to look out for.
- The Internet of things (IoT) is an unmanaged risk
The IoT is becoming more widespread as organizations adopt it for products and services. However, most IoT devices are not secure by design. Lack of transparency, e.g. unclear terms and conditions about how businesses use customers’ personal data, is a pressing issue. In the event of a data breach, or where privacy violations are revealed, customers and lawmakers will likely hold organizations accountable.
Companies using the IoT need to figure out how to control what information leaves their networks, and secure data against unauthorized, secret capture and transmission, such as through smartphones and smart TVs. As critical infrastructure becomes more reliant on Internet connectivity, IoT devices may make industrial control systems vulnerable with disruptive, even disastrous consequences.
- Threat actors target the Cloud
Cloud computing continues to transform the way that organizations use, store, and share data, applications, and workloads. However, use of the Cloud exposes an increasing amount of private data to risk. According to Jay Heiser, vice president and Cloud security lead at Gartner, “The volume of public cloud utilization is growing rapidly, so that inevitably leads to a greater body of sensitive stuff that is potentially at risk.”
Heiser says that there is a transition of security accountability within the Cloud industry from service provider to the customer. Data breaches can occur as result of human error, application vulnerabilities or poor security practices. The Cloud Security Alliance has compiled the latest version of its Top Threats to Cloud Computing Plus: Industry Insights report to help businesses.
- Hackers can circumvent password protection
A recent report from Verizon said that 81% of data breaches stem from stolen or weak passwords. Although companies may maintain lists of plaintext passwords, others keep them secured in hashed form. Hashed files protect passwords for domain controllers, and password authentication platforms such as LDAP and Active Directory. Hashes scramble entered passwords and, when a user inputs a password for authentication, it scrambles the input and compares it with the scrambled password on file. However, criminal hackers can use rainbow tables – precomputed tables that reverse cryptographic functions such as hashed passwords – to crack passcodes. Criminal hackers also outsource password cracking or use specially designed hardware.
The time it takes to crack hashed passwords takes much less than it used to. Cyber criminals enlist botnets to automatically try password combinations, taken from stolen credential lists available on the web. These lists can contain millions of passwords from large-scale data breaches, such as the Yahoo cyber attack. The Yahoo hack is considered the all-time biggest data breach, compromising all three billion user credentials in existence at the time. Third-party authentication provided by LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google reduces the number of passwords a person needs to recall. Multi-factor authentication, in which users provide evidence of their claimed identity beyond username and password, is becoming common in multiple industries, including retail, finance, and Cloud services.
- Ransomware is becoming even more menacing
2017 was the year of the ransomware attack, with healthcare and transportation companies targeted. WannaCry compromised hundreds of thousands of computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system. Ransomware uses malware to compromise defenses and then locks computer files away from victims with strong encryption. Cyber criminals then demand money to unlock victims’ own data.
The payola appeal has made ransomware popular among criminal hackers. To make it hard to trace, they can demand payments in cryptocurrencies. Cloud computing is big on the ransomware hit list; this form of cyber attack may not only compromise private company data but also the personal information of consumers. Smaller companies will be more vulnerable, whereas larger Cloud hosting companies such as Google, Amazon, and IBM will have the most digitally secure Clouds available.
- Artificial intelligence is a potent cyber crime weapon
Researchers and technology companies are exploring AI, neural networks, and machine-learning as ways to enhance computer system processing. For a while, AI and similar systems were used to anticipate and identify attacks while they were occurring. But slowly, the tables are turning as criminal hackers adopt the technology. For example, machine-learning can now compose messages that match those crafted by humans, such as the content of an email, and at a much higher volume.
Criminal hackers will undoubtedly leverage AI for phishing attacks. As they become more well-versed in AI, cyber criminals will design malware that can easily fool ‘sandboxes’ – security programs that can detect bad code before it is deployed on a company’s computer systems. Steve Grobman, CTO at McAfee, said, “AI unfortunately gives attackers the tools to get a much greater return on their investment.”
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