Hackers Wreak Havoc in 2017, is 2018 Ready to Battle?

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Martin McKeay

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With a new year upon us, it’s time to reflect back on a rather turbulent 365 days in the cybersecurity space. Between leaked Game of Thrones episodes, WannaCry ransomware and new strains of the Mirai Internet of Things botnet, cyberattacks reached alarming heights in 2017. This increases the burden on companies to adapt to a rapidly changing threat landscape.

 

So, what will 2018 look like?

 

IoT must brace for impact

 

IoT adoption has exploded in 2017 and shows no signs of slowing. Gartner predicts that 20 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020. One of the most worrisome aspects of the IoT explosion is just how susceptible these devices are to hacking. Many devices rely on default passwords that often go unchanged, making them easy targets for hackers to gain access. Hackers are creating armies of nefarious botnets comprised of hundreds of thousands of devices to use in DDoS attacks against organizations around the world. Healthcare is particularly vulnerable to IoT hacking -- connected medical devices are hard to update and often run on older versions of operating systems. As manufacturers bring new IoT devices to market, they must make security a priority. The current state of mind of ignoring basic security measures threatens the security and stability of the internet as a whole.

 

Hacker motivations shift from curious to criminal  

 

Hacker motivations have moved from the curious individual to organized crime and nation state actors, where hacking is a day job. We’ve long suspected this would be the case, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the level of sophistication and tenacity shown by these attackers is far beyond opportunistic hacking. It becomes the source of a paycheck, which is both good and bad for defenders. On one hand, professional support is often less motivation for hackers to push boundaries and find new vulnerabilities, meaning they’ll use the same proven tactics in their efforts. However, this new breed of attackers benefit from having greater resources and more confederates to help build out specific tools. When push comes to shove, organized hackers will be much more dangerous than individuals or small groups could ever be.

 

Security Biometrics are still a mixed bag

 

New and innovative security solutions, such as biometrics in the form of touch and Apple's Face ID, are gaining momentum as an option to protect personal data. But the effectiveness of biometrics is still up for debate. When a system containing your biometric data is compromised, you cannot change a thumb print in the same way you can change a password. Additionally, the complexities surrounding individual health data are increasingly becoming a concern. Activity trackers like Fitbits and Apple Watches are the quintessential example, allowing us to record heart rate, blood pressure and more. But that data can be used against us, either by someone who steals the data or by an employer who legally collects the data and decides an employee is a health risk. There are years of wrangling to come from the legal and ethical standpoint of this data.

 

If 2017 taught us anything, it’s that we have a long way to go to get ahead of adversaries. The biggest impact a security team can make in the new year is to understand how effectiveness of their protections are against the evolving threats. The controls that were seen as effective in 2017 might no longer be what’s needed to protect against the threats 2018 will bring.

 

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