Over the past few years, you have probably heard about high profile cyber-attacks such as the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica breach of data, the Equifax data breach and the Wannacry ransom attack. While cybersecurity news headlines highlight breaches that affect major international corporations, up to half of all cybersecurity attacks target small businesses, who often lack the expertise and resources to defend themselves effectively.

As our lives are increasingly digitalised, hyper-connected devices such as smart TVs, digital assistants, driverless vehicles and industrial automation create new vulnerabilities and entry points for hackers and criminals. Enlisting the help from professionals to manage your IT security has never been more important.

The pace of change is so rapid that it is difficult to forecast where the greatest potential threats lie, but bearing this caveat in mind and in no particular order, here is our pick of the cybersecurity trends to look out for over the next year:

1 Ransomware

Ransomware is not a new phenomenon but remains a major threat. Targeting vulnerabilities in unprotected devices, malicious code is downloaded without requiring the user to click on any links. A hacker can then hold the machine hostage until a ransom is paid. The Wannacry attack of 2017 took advantage of loopholes in the 2001 Windows XP operating system: the best way to prevent ransomware attacks is to keep all your servers and devices updated with the most recent anti-virus software, operating systems and patches.

2 Fileless attacks

Unlike normal phishing attacks, fileless attacks target a computer’s infrastructure and take control of core admin functions – the user’s machine is effectively turned against itself.

All instructions now come from trusted programmes previously installed on the computer, so fileless attacks are very difficult to detect. According to some experts, over 75% of all cyber attacks are now classified as fileless.

3 Aggressive state actors

For a fraction of the cost of conventional military investment, aggressive states can develop a battalion of coders to hack into a state ’s infrastructure, such as power grids, nuclear reactors and defence systems. Evidence suggests that both China and Russia have begun doing this over the last few years, and there is no reason to think that such attempts will diminish any time soon.

Sadly, there is no realistic defence against this type of cybersecurity threat, other than to follow prepper’s advice and keep plenty of torches, batteries and bottled water to hand.

4 Cloud-based attacks

Thanks to its convenience and falling prices, cloud-based technology is growing fast.

Cloud-based infrastructure is an attractive target for hackers: instead of attempting to break into millions of PCs, they only need to focus on just one central chokepoint.

Protecting yourself from cloud-based attacks is difficult since you have no control over the infrastructure involved, but the following steps are recommended:

  • Back up your important data locally
  • Change your passwords frequently
  • Only share information with platforms you trust

5 Implementing Risk-Based Frameworks

Incorporating a risk-based framework allows companies to be proactive in identifying threats, and to prioritise and mitigate them before the occurrence of the adhoc damage. ISO 27001 is one of the most frequently used guidelines.

Studies show 91% implementations of security frameworks improved Cybersecurity.

6 Spear phishing will become more prevalent

Spear phishing describes the process where a hacker breaks into your email account and discovers your personal information. They can then use this detailed information to carry out crimes such as mortgage fraud, where home buyers are duped by an email from a trusted mortgage agent into transferring funds to the hacker’s account. The client sends the money by bank transfer: this is rarely recoverable and they end up losing the house. Having an effective cybersecurity training and awareness programme will take people from being unaware of cybersecurity and how they are supposed to behave to the point where they are proactively behaving in a way that reduces the people risk element of cybersecurity.

7 Artificial intelligence

Computers are increasingly using artificial intelligence (AI) to spot patterns and make predictions: however, the machine learning used to develop AI programmes usually takes place within black box environments. This makes it extremely difficult for the architects of these programmes to understand what is happening beneath the bonnet, and if things go wrong, there is no way of resolving the problem — apart from turning off AI completely. Of course, this is assuming that tomorrow’s AI platforms will even respond to the safeguards and stop buttons we install today.

 

At vbt IT Solutions, we have the expertise to ensure that your security practices are optimised and up to date, allowing you to get on with what is really important – running your business. To find out more, call us on +353 1 204 1000 or email us: info@vbt.ie