Ransomware will get bolder and AI will pose more security threats in 2018

Ransomware will get bolder and AI will pose more security threats in 2018
16 Feb, 2018

As data becomes the new oil driving the world economy, hackers will go after it more than ever before, spurring demand for professionals to skillfully thwart their efforts aimed at licking away all the digital grease. 

Cybersecurity analyst John Mason sees 3.5 million new, unfilled cybersecurity jobs being created by 2021 as compared to the one million openings seen in 2016 – a whopping increase of 350% over five years. Last year, Mason saw $86.4 billion being poured in cybersecurity. What will be the top cybersecurity trends for 2018? Here’s a look: 

1) Evolution of ransomware 

The year 2018, Mason believes, will see the evolution of ransomware. According to him, the number of malicious apps increased from 500,000 in 2013 to 2.5 million in 2015 to 3.5 million in 2017. Mason claims that 77% of these malicious applications are malware. 

He also said that most businesses don't take cybersecurity seriously, with 20% having no recovery plans in place. This means if and when they come under attack, they will have no road map to get their data back. The analyst also said that 42% of the businesses "that do have a disaster-recovery strategy use a tape-based, outdated backup method”. 

According to a report by US security software firm McAfee, 2018 will see ransomware technologies aiming to extort money from individuals and organisations as a condition to release their digital hostages.

The report goes on to say this drive among adversaries for greater damage, disruption, and the threat of greater financial impact will not only spawn new variations of cybercrime business models, but also begin to effectively drive up the cyber insurance market. 

“While much about the motives behind WannaCry and NotPetya are still debated, the use of pseudo-ransomware is likely to continue, partly due to the ease with which as-a-service providers can make such techniques available to anybody with the means to pay,” said Raj Samani, chief scientist and head of McAfee Advanced Threat Research. 

“Such attacks could be sold to parties seeking to paralyse national, political and business rivals, which raises perhaps the biggest, unavoidable ransomware question of 2017: Were WannaCry and NotPetya actually ransomware campaigns that failed in their objectives to make significant revenue? Or perhaps incredibly successful wiper campaigns?” Samani said. 

2) Artificial intelligence will spawn more adversaries

As the world starts to embrace artificial intelligence, AI will also find its use in detecting vulnerabilities and suspicious behaviour. In terms of constant vigilance, Mason said, robots or programmes might prove more effective than humans in fighting off cyber-threats.

According to him, nearly $2.5 billion would be spent on AI technologies trying to ward off cyber-attackers between 2016 and 2025. However, that doesn't stop the bad guys from employing the technology themselves via machine learning techniques to scope out weaknesses and carry out more efficient attacks after learning more about the defence systems themselves.

According to a McAfee report, malicious hackers might employ AI to discover vulnerabilities faster than they are patched. "To win this arms race, organisations must effectively boost machine judgment and the speed of orchestrated responses with human strategic intellect. Only then will organisations be able to understand and anticipate the patterns of how attacks might play out, even if they have never been seen before," it said. 

3) Internet of Things to make network more vulnerable

Internet of Things or IoT will bring in added vulnerabilities for an organisation. Although IoT or connected devices make our lives easier (either by telling us that our refrigerator has run out of milk or by voice computing through assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Cortana), they also make the network more vulnerable.

"The problem is that all of that interconnectedness makes consumers highly susceptible to cyberattacks. In fact, one study revealed that 70% of IoT devices have serious security vulnerabilities," Mason wrote in a blog post, highlighting issues such as "insecure Web interfaces and data transfers, insufficient authentication methods, and a lack of consumer security knowledge" that open up ways for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities. 

Also, since IoT networks need a central decision-making node or authority, hacking that node could mean jeopardising the entire network. "That’s a risk security professionals need to be prepared to face by integrating password requirements, user verification, time-out sessions, two-factor authentication, and other sophisticated security protocols," Mason said.

4) Server-less apps will add to vulnerabilities 

Although the use of server-less apps results in considerable time-saving and cost-saving, it also opens up vulnerabilities.

"Server-less apps enable greater granularity, such as faster billing for services. But they are vulnerable to attacks exploiting privilege escalation and application dependencies. They are also vulnerable to attacks on data in transit across a network, and potentially to brute-force denial-of-service attacks, in which the server-less architecture fails to scale and incurs expensive service disruptions," a McAfee report explained.

5) Shift from protection and prevention to detection and response 

“Take the money you’re spending on prevention and begin to drive it more equitably towards detection and response,” said Earl Perkins, research vice-president, research firm Gartner. “The truth is that you won’t be able to stop every threat and you need to get over it. You can’t protect everything equally…We have to find a way to control only what matters.” 

According to Perkins, organisations should look at remedial action instead of thinking of protection. Through the course of this year, says Perkins, we might see security experts move to a predictive model with the use of AI or cognitive engines.