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Fighting tomorrow’s cyber threat landscape

Cybercrime will not be letting up anytime soon. In fact, reflecting on the informed opinions of 33 Intel Security thought leaders in the McAfee Labs Threats Predictions Report, it is clear that cybercriminals will be stepping up their game over the next five years, targeting the vulnerabilities organisations failed to protect. However what is also clear, from the unique insights into the cyber threat landscape outlined in the report, is that organisations too will be strengthening their approach to cybercrime.

However, to get to this position whereby organisations can strengthen their security posture, we need to address the business, technology and threat landscape realities facing them and help them understand what kinds of threats could be confronting them tomorrow and in the future. The predictions in this report aim to do just that.

Growing resources

Among the predictions for 2016, we strongly believe that attacks on all types of hardware and firmware will continue to take place. In addition, the number of tools available to make them possible will expand and grow, particularly because operating systems and software are hardening to a lot of forms of attack. Looking further ahead, to 2020, attackers will look for weaknesses in firmware and hardware as applications and operating systems harden against conventional attacks. The lure, of course, will be the vast levels of control attackers can potentially gain through these attacks – accessing resources and commandeering administration and control capabilities.

Ransomware danger

A rise in the use of ransomware, too, has been predicted as a key threat in 2016’s landscape. Examples of widespread attacks in 2015, including CryptoLocker and CTB-Locker, show that ransomware has become an important part of the cybercriminals’ arsenal. People are increasingly seeing it as a valuable tool to make money and given that ransomware can be bought on the dark web, it is predicted that more, less cyber-savvy hackers will leverage ransomware-as-a-services offerings, further accelerating growth in the years to come.

Seeing through the cloud

Exploiting weak or ignored corporate security policies in place to protect cloud services is predicted to be another likely threat causing organisations grief in 2016. With more companies migrating to the cloud, more business sensitive information is being housed in the cloud and if exploited, this could compromise an organisation’s business strategy, confidential employee data and financials, for example.

Such predictions paint an uneasy picture for organisations in the years to come. But whilst it is worrying to see that cybercrime shows no sign of slowing down, what is encouraging to see is that Intel Security predicts organisations will strengthen their security posture in response to the growing threats.

The hacks of 2015, of course, have made an impact on how organisations think about their security strategies. If 2014 was heralded as the ‘year of the breach’, 2015 has undoubtedly been the ‘year of the breach 2.0’. The hacks and data breaches on Talk Talk, vTech and Ashley Madison, to name a few, have caused other companies to sit up and rethink their security strategy to prevent seeing their company in a similar position.

But as organisations continue to improve their security postures, implement the latest security technologies and hire talented, experienced people, attackers will likely shift their attention to hacking enterprises through their employees. This is a trend we will likely see more of in 2016. Hackers will instead test the vulnerabilities of employees’ relatively insecure home systems to gain access to corporate networks. Therefore, educating employees about the potential risks in tomorrow’s threat landscape will be a crucial part of an organisation’s security strategy next year, and over the next five years.

Education, along with more conversations, will be key. In particular, threat intelligence sharing between enterprises and security vendors is something we predict will grow rapidly and mature in 2016. Furthermore, the development of best practices in this area will accelerate, metrics for success will emerge to quantify improvement, and threat intelligence cooperatives between industry vendors will expand. In 2020, we predict that, with more effective tools in place to detect and correct sophisticated attacks, shared threat intelligence will also likely deliver faster and better protection of systems. This will be crucial to keep ahead of tomorrow’s cybercriminals.

Keeping pace with, and anticipating, the challenges of the future threat landscape requires that we match the intelligence exchange, platform agility and delivery power that cybercriminals regularly leverage. In the fight against cybercrime, and to win against the ever-growing threats identified by these experts, organisations need to better understand, see more and detect and respond faster. Only then do we gain the upper hand.

Raj Samani, CTO EMEA, Intel Security