With shadowy government agencies building their own botnets, huge data breaches like the one Adobe suffered, and nasty file damaging malware like CryptoLocker, 2013 was an exhausting year for cyber defenders. However, with new security visibility tools now available, 2014 should be the year of security visibility.
And, although the threat landscape will continue to evolve at a blistering pace, with clever new exploit techniques and criminals focusing on new targets, security professionals should be able to use these new visibility tools to swing the cyber war pendulum back in their direction.
Could a Hollywood hack come true? Will there be a US Healthcare.gov data breach? Should you expect CryptoLocker clones? Here are some security predictions for 2014:
Increased Cyber Kidnappings Raise Attacker Profits
Ransomware, a class of malicious software that tries to take a computer hostage, has grown steadily over the past few years, but a particularly nasty variant emerged in 2013: CryptoLocker. This year, it has affected millions and it is suspected that the authors have made a high return in their criminal investment. In 2014, I expect many other cyber criminals will try to copy CryptoLocker’s success by mimicking its techniques and capabilities. Plan for a surge of ransomware in 2014.
Bad Guys Break The Internet Of Things (IoT)
Next year, I expect white and black hat hackers to spend more time cracking non-traditional computer devices such as cars, watches, toys and medical devices. While security experts have warned about securing these devices for the past few years, the market is just now catching up with the expectation. I suspect that good and bad hackers will focus heavily on finding holes in these IoT devices in 2014.
A Hollywood Hack
In 2014 a major state-sponsored attack may bring a Hollywood movie hack to life that exploits a flaw against critical infrastructure. Even if these systems are kept offline, the often-cited Stuxnet proved that motivated cyber attackers could infect non-networked infrastructure, with some potentially disastrous results. Researchers have spent the past few years discovering and studying the vulnerabilities in industrial control systems (ICS) and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) solutions, and found that these systems have many holes.
Hackers Harass US Healthcare Hangout
I anticipate that the US HealthCare.gov site will suffer at least one data breach in 2014. Between its topical popularity, and the value in its data store, Healthcare.gov is an especially attractive cyber attack target. In fact, this has already happened to some extent. Security researchers have already pointed out minor security issues like evidence of unsuccessful web application attacks and attempted Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks.
2014 Is The Year Of Security Visibility
In the past few years, cyber attackers have successfully breached large organisations, despite firewalls and antivirus security defences. Outdated legacy defences, misconfigured security controls, and oceans of security logs make it impossible for security professionals to protect their networks and recognise important security events. I anticipate that in 2014 more organisations will deploy security visibility tools to help identify vulnerabilities and set stronger policies to protect crucial data.
High-Profile Target Suffers A Chain-Of-Trust Hack
While top-level victims, like government and Fortune 500 businesses, may have a higher security pedigree, they can still fail to stop the persistent, advanced hacker who preys on the weakest links on organisations’ chains-of-trust – partners and contractors. As advanced attackers go after harder targets, expect to see more chain-of-trust cyber breaches in 2014, where hackers hijack partners in order to gain access to high level organisations.
Malware Gets Meaner
Most cyber attacks and malware are not purposely destructive; if an attacker destroys a victim’s computer, it cuts off access to further resources. However, the changes in hacker profiles have resulted in more cases where cyber destruction might become a valid goal for network attackers. Cyber criminals may also realise how the threat of imminent destruction could help increase cyber extortion success rates, similar to the countdown timer CryptoLocker used to scare victims into compliance. Plan for an increase in destructive viruses, worms and Trojans in 2014.
Network Attackers Become Cyber Shrinks
Over the last few years, attackers have had the advantage over defenders, leveraging more sophisticated techniques and evasion tactics to get past legacy defences. However, the tide is turning. In 2014, defenders will have more access to next generation security solutions and advanced threat protection capabilities, swinging the technological security pendulum. But cyber criminals do not give up easily, and we expect them to morph their strategy from technical advantages to attacking flaws in human nature. In 2014, expect attackers to focus more on psychology than technology, with techniques like convincing phishing emails and leveraging pop culture, to target the weakest link – the user.