Between 2017 and 2018, there were more than 2,200 data breaches and more than 50,000 cybersecurity incidents, across 65 countries. Aggressively countering these historically unprecedented cybersecurity challenges will be high on the agenda of businesses, IT professionals, and consumers in 2019.
Just as businesses will ramp-up their use of AI, so will cyber attackers. Cyber criminals always exploit vulnerabilities that are inherent in any new, untested technologies. AI-powered chatbots, for example, may be maliciously inserted into websites that are not fully protected. Once they are deployed, these fake, unauthorized chatbots can be used to trick visitors to the site. They can persuade them, for instance, to share private information like credit card numbers and account passwords, or to download malicious data-stealing files or spyware. Confronting AI-assisted hackers will be a serious cybersecurity issue over the coming months.
McAfee Labs also predicts a frightening rise in hacking of commonplace devices like smartphones and tablets to breach households. In the era of the “internet of things,” millions of people use smart gadgets to make it easier to manage their homes. But these interconnected devices may lack high-grade security. Hack into a phone or tablet that manages all of those Wi-Fi connected devices and it’s possible to commit mischief such as disabling burglar alarms or unlocking doors. Voice-activated assistants also typically contain valuable and sensitive financial and personal data. These relatively new devices are now prime targets for cyber criminals intent on exploiting any of their vulnerabilities.
Easily deciphered or stolen passwords are often the weakest link in any cyber network. That’s why multi-factor authentication will trend in the coming year as a method to thwart attempts to circumvent less secure 2-factor security protocols. Biometrics will also be more widely used, and research will continue to find practical ways to utilize blockchain technology to provide greater security.
The consensus among cybersecurity experts is that the healthcare industry will remain the number one target for cyber criminals in 2019. According to the 2018 HIMSS Cybersecurity Survey, the majority of healthcare organizations experienced a significant security incident within a year of the survey. Respondents cited data hacks, ransomware, and malware used to steal credentials as the top three perceived threats. These threats are ongoing because healthcare organizations represent the most valuable prize sought by hackers. Medical records contain a wealth of information that can be stolen, exploited, and sold.
In previous years, consumers were happy to sacrifice privacy in order to enjoy more convenient shopping and social media interaction. But now the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. Even hostile nations are engaged in cyber attacks targeting ordinary citizens. Last year saw multiple investigations by Congress regarding cyber attacks and the unauthorized collection and sharing of private data. Now authorities are ready to follow-up with regulatory action to curtail such practices. Businesses and consumers will also take more proactive steps to invest in cybersecurity software, encryption technology, and virtual private networks.