It is the season of the common cold, but as IT professionals all over the UK battle into work with their sniffles and coughs, another form of infection is on the rise. The occurrence and severity of cyber-attacks is an ever-increasing threat - from major breaches at global banks to email phishing and attacks on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The risk of a breach inevitably rises as the amount of data we hold also increases. By most accounts, 2020 looks destined to bring more damaging attacks than any year before it.
The threat landscape will be more sophisticated than ever
In 2020, one point of weakness could be all it takes to allow the infection in, as IoT devices continue to grow in popularity across homes and workplaces. Though at first glance they may seem harmless, the potential for compromise lies in their Wi-Fi capabilities, which enables these IoT devices to connect to other gadgets that are linked into the IoT. Using an IoT device as an entry point, cybercriminals can then access the network and the other gadgets in which more lucrative data may be stored. Without a global standard of cybersecurity for these small connected devices, consumers should think twice before connecting them to their home systems. Basic technological hygiene is needed to protect homes from disease.
Weaponised artificial intelligence is a larger epidemic that could decimate organisations across the world in 2020. Attackers are producing tougher, craftier malware by harnessing the same AI technologies top cybersecurity systems are using. As the threat landscape becomes ever more sophisticated, cybersecurity companies must develop smarter AI systems to combat their malicious counterparts. Just as scientists must develop antibiotics to stop the spread of new bacteria designed to cripple a system, cybersecurity professionals must innovate to create new cures in the lab to combat 2020’s evolved threats.
Playing catchup with resistant strains
For all the good work that antibiotic solutions provide, they also naturally encourage resistant strains. Similarly, the harder cybersecurity companies work to generate new cures, the more innovative the threat-makers will be to circumvent this. Eventually, the existing solutions will no longer have any impact on an evolved strain and, unless a new solution can be developed quickly enough, the illness can take hold and start wreaking havoc.
This game of cat-and-mouse will continue to play out in 2020 as cybersecurity experts work to develop solutions quickly enough to keep up with the next cyberthreat. This will continue until there are new solutions that actively predict the nature of the next malicious event, allowing organisations to stop cyber-attacks before they ever truly become a threat. This means no data lost, no accounts compromised, no betrayed customers and no reputational damage for organisations.
Predictive cybersecurity is the ultimate vaccine
Predictive cybersecurity solutions are in development as we speak. Just as populations are vulnerable to oncoming epidemics, the data of hundreds of millions of people which is stored online is inherently vulnerable. But intelligent research and thoughtful action can prepare populations to survive these threats. Driven by powerful machine learning software, BlackBerry Cylance predicted WannaCry two years before it hit in 2017. It is working to develop software which guards organisations and their data against such threats. AI and machine learning are advancing at a rapid pace, having grown from basic predictive text software to machine learning which can spot an oncoming cyber-attack in barely visible code. With newly sophisticated predictive software, malware soon won’t be able to find a way in, and the population will remain safe and healthy.
A positive outlook on cybersecurity in 2020
Cybersecurity software will still need to ensure that its offerings of basic protection are strong enough to resist low-level threats as common as the common cold, and businesses must maintain their cyber-hygiene by having a mindset of zero-trust. But when it comes to those larger epidemics, which could have devastating effects on large swathes of the population, the threat could be stopped in its tracks by a well-researched vaccine. This will take the form of predictive cybersecurity software at the heart of defences that organisations are adopting to protect against high-level threats.
What can businesses do to immunise themselves from threat?
Businesses can engage in practices to vaccinate their own systems against oncoming threats in 2020. This is grounded in understanding how the data an organisation holds could be valuable to attackers. By going back to basics, having a top-down approach and being cyber-resilient, organisations can keep their immune systems healthy and ready to fight malware, phishing and spoofing. Understanding that the large majority of breaches are caused by mistakes within organisations will also prompt precautionary checks, regular monitoring and training, which will contribute to cyber-health. Finally, a commitment by C-level executives to invest in strong cybersecurity solutions will encourage a company-wide belief that data protection should continue to be a top priority for businesses come 2020, and in the new decade beyond.
Campbell Murray, Global Head, BlackBerry Security Delivery