Between the Yahoo hack, the DNC email leak, and the DDoS attack that took down much of the Internet, 2016 has seen an unprecedented wave of cyber-attacks.
But these headlines offer but a glimpse into the cyber-war that’s waged every day on a grand scale. Evolving threats and new vulnerabilities mean this war is in a state of constant flux. By analysing current security trends, however, we can try to gauge what the attacks of the future will look like.
These are my predictions for 2017:
- Attackers won’t just steal data — they’ll change it
Criminals aren’t just looking to make a quick buck anymore. They’re playing the long con. By subtly manipulating information, they can inflict reputational damage, erode the integrity of data, or even influence public opinion via ‘fake news’.
- Insider threats will rise dramatically
As networks become busier and more complex, indications of insider threat will get lost in the noise of the network. Yet, these subtle changes could represent thousands of files being removed by a careless employee.
- The Internet of Things will become the Internet of Vulnerabilities
According to Gartner, 13.5 billion connected devices will be in use by 2020. The Dyn attack exploited these smart devices to devastating effect, and future attacks will continue to use vulnerabilities in the IoT for large-scale attacks.
- Consumer devices will be held hostage
In 2016 alone, ransomware has skyrocketed by 400 percent. It’s only a matter of time until these attacks start to target consumer devices. Your smart TV, your phone, your computer, even your car could be held for ransom.
- Artificial intelligence will go dark
AI will soon become a cyber-weapon. Highly sophisticated and persistent attacks will use AI to bypass traditional defenses. From the shadows, they’ll be able to manipulate data, launch advanced phishing campaigns, steal sensitive files, or activate a kill-switch.
But there is hope. If we can forecast the upcoming threats, we can better prepare ourselves for the challenges to come. Our security strategies for the new year should be designed with these threats in mind.
In the meantime, on behalf of everyone here at Darktrace, we hope you have a wonderful holiday, a happy New Year, and a cyber-safe 2017.
Justin is one of the US’s leading cyber intelligence experts, and holds the position of Director for Cyber Intelligence & Analytics at Darktrace. His insights on cyber security and artificial intelligence have been widely reported in leading media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, CNN, The Washington Post, and VICELAND. With over 10 years of experience in cyber defense, Justin has supported various elements in the US intelligence community, holding mission-critical security roles with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems and Abraxas. Justin is also a highly-skilled technical specialist, and works with Darktrace’s strategic global customers on threat analysis, defensive cyber operations, protecting IoT, and machine learning.
To take down DNS provider Dyn, hackers exploited critical vulnerabilities in the Internet of Things. Vital internet services crashed, including Twitter, Amazon, and Netflix. Experts now suggest that amateurs may have been behind the attack. This begs the question — if amateurs can use IoT to wreak havoc, how will more sophisticated attackers proceed?
As IoT devices become increasingly prevalent — and as ransomware has skyrocketed by 259 percent in just five months — criminals will start to look at essential business equipment as a viable target. Healthcare machines like insulin pumps and MRIs are now network-connected, as are Boeing 787s, oilfield sensors, wind turbines, quality control machines, and more.
By taking control of essential equipment, a criminal can bring business to a grinding halt, either demanding payment to regain access, or sabotaging the equipment beyond repair.
But IoT attacks also don’t have to be so obvious. Once a criminal has control of a network device, they can subtly alter its data. For instance, by changing results obtained from a drilling company’s sensors, a criminal can trick them into mining a depleted area.
This represents a far more insidious kind of attack. With critical equipment under their control, a criminal can quietly tweak bank account numbers, medical results, or blueprints. Just a small change can prove catastrophic, and given the ubiquitous nature of IoT devices, every industry is vulnerable. Worse still, you may not realize until it’s too late.
By comparison, the Dyn attack seems rather crude.
To be sure, the DDoS attack on Dyn was eye-opening. In the course of a day, we learned the ease with which lackluster IoT security can be exploited for massive cyber-attacks. In this instance, the attacker created a Mirai botnet using home devices to overload the Dyn servers with attack traffic reported to be as high as 1.2 Tbps.
But the Dyn attack is just the beginning. Whether through a subtle attack or an aggressive ransomware extortion, modern businesses are facing substantial new threats because of the IoT. Our security approach needs to reflect this new reality. Fortunately, self-learning immune systems are here, and they can automatically adapt to protect even the newest technologies within our digital ecosystems.
For more on the future of IoT security, sign up for my webinar to learn how cyber-attacks will soon be powered by AI.
Dave is the Director of Technology at Darktrace, overseeing the mathematics and engineering teams and project strategies. With over 19 years of experience at the forefront of government intelligence operations, Dave has worked across UK intelligence agencies GCHQ and MI5, where he was responsible for delivering mission-critical infrastructure services, including replacing and securing entire global networks, the development of operational internet capabilities and the management of critical disaster recovery incidents. He acts as an advisor to cyber security start-ups and growth-stage companies from the UK Government’s Cyber Security Accelerator and CyLon. His insights on AI and the future of cyber security are also regularly featured in the UK media. He holds a first-class degree in Computer Science and Software Engineering from the University of Birmingham.