Insight: The face of cybercrime in 2016

This is a contributed piece by Bharat Mistry, Cyber Security Consultant, Trend Micro UK

Cybercrime is booming and 2016 promises continued growth in online extortion, hacktivism and mobile malware. As a result of this, governments and businesses will employ an offensive cybersecurity posture. I believe the increase in cybercrime will also see governments and enterprises begin to understand the benefit of cybersecurity foresight. There will be changes in legislation and a growing number of specialist cybersecurity officers to support the fight against the mounting threat.

Attack vectors will develop

In 2016 threat actors will seek to better understand user psychology than the technical nuances of an attack. These cybercriminals are primarily driven by a need to shorten the distance between them and their goal – money. Take ransomware, for example. If a hacker has just blanket encrypted a hard drive and made it useless - the end-user can simply re-format it. Hackers will be more targeted, crack an end point, snoop around and monitor what parts of the drive are being used. They’ll gauge what the most valuable data is on the drive, encrypt it and hold it to ransom.

While online extortion will increase, we also expect 2016 will see one critical attack on smart devices, which could prove lethal. One application that could be a vehicle for this attack is in the healthcare space. When using an insulin pump, the nurse currently has to see the patient and the insulin shots are delivered in stages. However, an Internet of Things (IoT) insulin pump has the ability to self-regulate at a pace in tune with the body. If that device could be breached and a hacker could tamper with the data, they could trigger a life threatening situation. These scenarios will prompt the conversation around how to best regulate and secure the IoT.

Mobile devices will also see a jump in mobile malware to 20 million malicious apps next year. The impact will be most heavily felt in China due to the lack of a controlled app store. Hackers simply mirror users and follow market trends. The more things technology enables us to do, the more things can be targeted by cyber criminals. Smart watch payments will be something that hackers target as they’ll be two points of attack – the smartphone and the watch. Connectivity is a big target for these threat actors.

While hackers look at connectivity, I believe they will move away from web defacements and DDoS attacks to target data. We’ve already seen this recently with two huge data breaches at UK telecoms player TalkTalk and online liasons site Ashley Madison. DDoS mitigation is becoming more available and sophisticated as cloud-based services can divert traffic away. As technology evolves the amount of resources a hacker requires for a network based DDoS attack are significant. But if a hacker can turn their attention to a business’s data and change that information in any way, shape or form – they can hold that company to ransom. The organisation will have no idea what has changed in the data and the impact that could have on their business operations. This is far more worrying for a business than a DDoS attack which simply knocks their website out of action for a few hours.

The fightback begins

The changing landscape is driving a desperate need for trained Data Protection Officers. However, less than 50% of organisations will employ them by end of 2016. These professionals will become a critical component in enterprise protection strategies. The dearth of these roles in the market is mainly caused by how corporate boards perceive security. Usually medium to large sized enterprises view security as an IT or technical issue and not have a Data Protection Officer or CISO on the board. The reality is that security is a business issue; and data breaches are a very high profile problem that boards will increasingly have to deal with. I believe this will start to make them mandate the appointment of a security officer to report directly to the board. However, whoever takes this role should be savvy. They must able to report security issues back to the board in the language of business goals and operations – not just through the lens of IT and technology.

Another area we expect to more activity is the level of arrests, takedowns, convictions and legislation. What will underpin this success in the fight against cybercrime are more global agreements between nations. The G7 nations will put an agreement in place that stipulates where malicious activity has originated in one country and impacts another and the individuals can be identified - they can be extradited and face justice.

While cybercrime may be growing in number and sophistication in 2016, so are the vehicles and ways in which it will be thwarted. Next year will set the tone for a battle that will continue for some time.


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