Top 7 Cyber-Security Predictions for 2017 and Beyond

cyber securityThis guest column is authored by Kanishk Tagade, Security Researcher and Digital Strategist, HaltDos

The rate of cyber attacks is never stopping!

2016 proved to be another year of devastating cyber-security breaches and other cyber-security incidents spanning across multiple industries including SMEs and large-size enterprises from all over the world. There have been many sobering moments throughout the year, confirmatory yet again, that nobody is resistant to sophisticated cyber-attacks.

Security professionals have been speculating on which threats will continue to be problematic, and what new cyber-security threats might lie ahead. Cyber-security is in a very state of constant modification, So what can we expect in 2017? Based on what incidents we are seeing around the globe?

Here is a list of the top seven emerging cyber-security prediction we will likely see in 2017:

1) Advances in Nation-State Cyber offenses.

Once upon a time, wars were fought by brave troopers who faced each other in furious combats. But in the last decade, the way in which the countries approach the thought of war has modified profoundly. The huge introduction of the technical components in our daily lives has transformed the way of war. Technology made cyber attacks and cyber spying operations the most politically motivated activities undertaken by governments. And we call it cyber warfare.

Cyberspace is taken into account by the principal governments to be the fifth domain of warfare like space, land, sea and air, and due to this reason, principal countries are mass investing in the development of latest cyber capabilities to shield it. Official sources state that a minimum of 140 countries are developing cyberweapons, and therefore the range of cyber warfare operations have dramatically accumulated. It’s been estimated that thousands of attacks will be conducted frequently against government systems around the world due to offensive foreign states.

The questions is, why the use of cyber-weapons is a proven choice for governments? And how cyber-weapons could affect the infrastructure of any country?

Maybe because cyber-weapons are highly efficient or the investment on these type of technologies are very less! This spectrum is incredibly wide. Generally, a cyber weapon could hit many critical infrastructure and important system of a country such as Industrial control systems, Water supply utilities, Power supply grids, Communication networks, Hospitals, Banking and financial systems, Airspace defense systems, etc.

2) The IoT (Internet of Things) overwhelming security.

Within the next few years, billions of IoT devices will populate our cities. These IoT devices will infect each other with worms that will spread explosively over large areas like a nuclear chain reaction. Using these devices, hackers will try to shut down the part of internet through distributed denial of service just like they did last month on ISPs in Liberia or will probably try to hack the devices used on daily basis such as smartphones, connected TVs, wearables computing devices, personal computers, cars, LED bulbs, etc.

IoT device manufacturers will be blamed for security breaches if they fail to secure their products.

Why will attackers be more focusing on infecting IoT devices?

According to recent reports, Gartner has projected, there will be 26 billion connected IoT devices by 2020. Cisco said there will be 50 billion. Intel said it will be 200 billion. And the IDC said there will be 212 billion. In any case, these are all really big numbers. (Source)

82% of companies will have IoT applications implemented into their business in some way by 2017. Just imagine the impact of breaches and the breadth of damage they will be able to do to the security systems.

We cannot secure what we’ve got in place today to fight against cyber attacks- we’re falling behind and we don’t have the will or the means to catch up – companies are simply not understanding what they’re up against and the Internet of Things brings even a larger challenge.

A cyber attack with LED bulbs. Just hilarious. This is the future I guess!

3) The number of cloud-based attacks will continue to increase.

Companies and enterprises are constantly adopting cloud-based services because they are efficient and easy to access via any internet-connected device and costs very less as compared to the on-premises data center or other hardware services. They’re doing it – but security remains a serious concern.

According to Cisco, regionally, the Middle East and Africa will lead in cloud data center traffic growth, with a 34% CAGR, but will still be “only” 451 exabytes in 2020. North American cloud data center traffic is expected to grow by 27%, from 2.2 ZB in 2015 to 7.1 ZB in 2020.

Last year, it was found that the brute force attacks on cloud environments increased from 40% to 54%, and vulnerability scans increased from 37% to 54%.

Brute force attacks usually involve an outsized range of attempts testing multiple common credential failings to search out the way in, whereas vulnerability scans automatically attempt to search out a security weakness in services, protocol or applications implementations that can be exploited. These types of incidents have been far more likely to target on-premises systems in the past, but are now occurring at near-equivalent rates in both cloud and on-premise environments.

As more enterprises have moved towards the cloud infrastructure, some traditional on-premises threats have also followed them. It shows the necessity for enterprise security system providers to develop protection services for cloud environments as well.

4) Cyber extortion will increase

Hackers are becoming more sophisticated and more effective – they have highly capable automation and a wide range of attack tools and business analytics to aid them.

In recent years, Cyber extortion have become a menace. Hackers / extortionists have been continuously penetrating and manipulating target’s data, which is an essential part of their business, only for the ransom. Cyber extortion schemes include the extortionist’s intervention into target’s system to make a real threat of theft or destruction of the data, defacement of target’s website or placing illicit material on their website.

This year, FBI has stated that the utilization of ransomware has reached an incomparable high. Within the first 3 months of 2016 alone, cyber criminals have collected $209 million by extorting businesses and establishments to unlock computer systems. At that rate, ransomware will be a more than $1 billion criminal trade next year, with total losses being even higher once connected business costs are factored in.

In 2017, we tend to predict digital ransom attacks will become more prevalent and sophisticated by being more situationally aware — understanding victims and recognizing when attackers can fetch a higher ransom. We tend to expect this trend to leverage the significant rise of bitcoin since it’s the currency that criminals prefer, trusting the anonymity it affords them in ransom situations.

Types of cyber extortion include ransomware and the threat of DDoS attack i.e. DDoS extortion for bitcoins (DD4BC).

5) Cost of data breaches will increase.

Data breaches are getting more prevailing and attack trends show no proof of slowing down. Again, we tend to see these breaches target high-value data – Social Security numbers, protected health info, credit and debit card numbers, phishing emails, password and other user access info. Placing these stolen credit or debit card data on the black market is a well-established and lucrative business for cyber criminals.

According to report presented by Ponemon Institute,

1) The breach caused by human error or negligence costs an average of $137 per record i.e. $3.85M per breach.
2) When a system glitch exposes records, the average per-record cost is $142 or $3.99M total.
3) When hackers break in or insiders leak data out, the per-record cost is $170 or $4.77M per incident.

As we look ahead into 2017, we expect to see the increase in cost of data breaches.

Speaking of DDoS attacks, how can we miss it!

DDoS attacks have not been around with any significance for very long over the history of IT. But in little more than a decade, they have become a worldwide threat that shows no sign of abating, or even diminishing, anytime soon. In fact, the problem of DoS/DDoS attacks is increasing rather than declining, both in incidence and in virility. With a growing trend of 200% year over year in frequency, costing $150 – $250 in the underground market to buy a week long DDOS attack platform, these attacks can cause real damages to organizations ranging from small size businesses to large-size enterprises. It is estimated that banks can lose up to $400,000 per hour and enterprises about $5000 – $19,999 per hour due to an average bandwidth of DDoS attack.

With Mirai botnet source code published by its author this year, it will add more DDoS threats to companies and businesses from all around the world and IoT botmasters will become more active.

According to the paper presented this year from cyber-security researchers at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science and Canada’s Dalhousie University shows that malicious hackers could cause a “nuclear chain reaction” by hacking into ‘smart’ lightbulbs or other popular IoT household devices.

The attack can start by plugging in a single infected bulb anywhere in the city, and then catastrophically spread everywhere within minutes, enabling the attacker to turn all the city lights on or off, permanently brick them, or exploit them in a massive DDOS attack,”wrote Eyal Ronen, Colin O’Flynn, Adi Shamir and Achi-Or Weingarten in the paper, titled IoT Goes Nuclear: Creating a ZigBee Chain Reaction.

Due to the increasing use of smart devices and IoT technology, DDoS attacks have become more catastrophic. In the upcoming year, the researchers have also predicted that more intelligent Anti-DDoS vendors will emerge.

7) Business strategy and Cyber-Security Investments Will Increase.

The demands of cyber-security are fundamentally changing the IT infrastructure of companies. In the face of emerging cyber-security threats, the cost of security and risk management will be doubled over next three years. Statistics shows that 60% of small businesses go out of business within 6 months of a cyber attack.

According to the report by Symantec and the National Cyber Security Alliance, most SMBs have no security policy, only 50% have basic cyber-security, 40% don’t back up off site, and only 25% have an outside company test them.

Most business owners have simply ignored the challenge of cyber-security thinking somehow it was simply going to go away. As a result of this, these businesses have constantly been targeted by attackers.

In an upcoming year, government & businesses will be spending more to implement solid cyber-security strategies as a part of business strategy and companies will hire more cyber-security talent to reduce the gap.

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