Many people worldwide are celebrating the fact that the rough year of 2016 is behind us, but make no mistake: 2017 has the potential to be just as difficult. In the field of cybersecurity alone, we are facing sophisticated new threats with the capacity to devastate businesses that are not adequately prepared. Perhaps more so than ever before, we must be vigilant in our fight against hackers and cybercriminals. This article identifies four specific cyber security trends that will presumably become major news in 2017.
1. Ransomware will merge with Data-Stealing Malware. Ransomware will become more intelligent this year and merge with information-stealing malware. This will allow fraudsters to steal information before encrypting it. Although ransomware is certainly a quick and easy way for hackers to make money, there are always cases in which a potential victim has backup files and thus refuses to pay. However, if the hacker has stolen the information before encrypting it, he can turn around and say, “You know what? Pay up or I’ll leak it all.”
In 2016, we saw several cases of ransomware being used in sensitive environments like hospitals, but without causing any significant damage. But just think what would happen if malware were used to exfiltrate patient information before it is encrypted. According to what we have seen so far, there is a very good chance we will see this kind of devastating data leak in 2017.
2. Ransomware will target Cloud-Based Databases. 2016 did not see many (if any) hackers using ransomware in attacks against corporate networks. Knowing that large businesses back up all of their critical files, they wisely chose information-stealing malware as their preferred tool. However, think of all the SMBs that are now moving their files to the cloud. Do you think they have backups, or even know how to recover lost files? Once cybercriminals realize this, we are most likely to see ransomware targeting cloud-based databases, where there is much less chance of backup files being available. And this would not just cause downtime for the victimized companies; it would have a significant impact on the cloud providers and infrastructures as well.
3. Hackers will begin targeting Web Browsers. As more and more infrastructure transitions to become cloud-based and accessible from anywhere, hackers will begin to target Web browsers like Chrome, Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox as the weak point. When you think about it, browsers are essentially the operating system today. Regardless of whether you are using Windows, Mac OS or Linux, you spend most of your time in the browser, talking on Google Hangouts, drafting documents on Google Docs, using any number of plug-ins, and more. This very large attack surface has not been fully exploited by hackers. It is likely we will see an increase in malware targeting this surface in 2017. Once hackers find a vulnerability within a browser, they will have access to everybody who uses that browser, regardless of OS.
4. Internet of Things (IoT) Breaches will skyrocket. There is a very good reason why we are seeing daily news articles breathlessly warning about the risk of IoT breaches. Quite simply, IoT devices were not designed with security in mind. And now that we are connecting everything from refrigerators to hair-dryers to the Internet, it’s just a matter of time before a significant breach occurs. In 2017, SMBs and enterprises alike will suffer breaches originating from an insecure IoT device connected to their network. The access point might be anything from a security camera or network printer to climate control or even a remote-controlled light bulb.
You may have read about a late 2016 DDoS attack on the website of cyber security expert Brian Krebs. What happened is that a hacker found a vulnerability in a specific brand of IoT camera, and caused millions of them to make HTTP requests from Krebs’ site at the same time. It successfully crashed the site, but this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what IoT breaches can do. Imagine a hacker infiltrating an IoT camera within a corporate network. If that network also contains the company’s database center, there is no way to stop the hacker from making a lateral move from the compromised camera to the database.
This is not much different from what happened in the infamous Target breach of 2013; a hacker infiltrated the system responsible for monitoring the retailer’s air conditioning, and then made a lateral move to the customer database. This type of hack is going to become much more common.
As you can see, we have many cyber threats to watch out for in 2017. Thankfully, new technologies are being developed every day to help keep the hackers at bay.
Gilad Peleg is the CEO of SecBI