10 cybersecurity trends to watch for 2019

These cybersecurity trends are set to impact the enterprise, security professionals and companies of all sizes in the year ahead.

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The corporate world was rocked by a number of high-profile data breaches and ransomware attacks in 2018. Juniper Research estimated that the quantity of data stolen by cybercriminals could rise by as much as 175 percent over the next five years. Add to that uncertainties in the global economy and 2019 looks set to be a challenging year for cybersecurity professionals.

1. Operationalizing GDPR

The EU's general data protection regulation (GDPR) requires every business operating in the EU to protect the privacy and personal data of EU citizens. The penalties for non-compliance are high, and the GDPR takes a broad view of what constitutes personal data, making this a potentially onerous duty. An Ovum reporton data privacy laws from July 2018 suggested that two-thirds of businesses consider they will have to adapt their own procedures in order to become compliant, and over half fear they are likely to be fined for non-compliance. A proactive approach to data privacy is also beneficial for enterprises trading solely in the U.S. Will 2019 be the year we see the adoption of a comprehensive federal privacy law in the U.S.?

2. Managing managed and unmanaged devices

As the number and range of mobile devices (both managed and unmanaged) employed by users continues to grow, enterprise networks have had an uphill struggle to mitigate the risks involved. The IoT has linked numerous connected devices, many of which have little or no built-in security, to previously secure networks resulting in an exponential rise in exploitable endpoints. The enterprise needs to come to grips with this trend and assert some control over the use of unmanaged devices and establish clear protocols for managed devices.

3. Take a complete inventory

A survey conducted by Ponemon in 2018 found that even though 97 percent of security professionals agreed a cyber attack caused by an insecure device could be catastrophic for their company, only 15 percent had an inventory of the IoT devices connected to their systems, and fewer than half had a security protocol that would allow them to disconnect devices seen as high-risk. It’s imperative that the enterprise take a proactive approach to this vulnerability. This year we expect to see more companies follow the best practice advice of NIST in establishing a real-time inventory of all connected devices. Not only those employing a physical connection, but also through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

4. Targeted phishing attacks

Personal data is an increasingly lucrative currency for hackers. Data mined from attacks on social media sites such as Facebook can be bought on the dark web and then leveraged to provide social engineers with the information they need to successfully target an individual. This results in increasingly sophisticated attacks by APT (advanced persistent threat) groups. Very few people today would fall for the “Nigerian” scam, but if a phishing email comes from a trusted source or makes reference to personal data you would not expect a spammer to have, it is harder to spot. Kapersky suggests that spear phishing will be one of the greatest threats to businesses and individuals in 2019.

5. Ransomware and cryptojacking

While ransomware attacks are in decline, they’ve been replaced to some degree by cryptojacking (hijacking a computer to mine cryptocurrency). These attacks employ similar tactics to ransomwarebut require less technical expertise. As the malware works in the background without the user’s knowledge, it’s hard to estimate the true scale of this problem, but all the evidence suggests it is on the rise.

The high-profile attacks seen in 2018 (WannaCry,NotPetya) also suggest that while random low-level ransomware attacks are reducing in number, sophisticated targeted attacks will remain a problem for some time. We expect that 2019 will see the continued growth of cryptojacking and targeted ransomware.

6. User access rights

Effective management of user privileges is one of the cornerstones of a strong security profile. Granting users unnecessary data access rights or system privileges can result in either accidental or deliberate misuse of data and create vulnerabilities to external attack. Leading the way in the fight to counter this risk are identity and access management (IAM) systems, which give administrators the tools to monitor and assess access to ensure compliance with government regulations and corporate protocols. Many of the solutions in this growth area are still in their infancy, but they are already proving their business worth. We can expect to see many more joining their ranks in the coming year.  

7. Endpoint detection & response (EDR)

Endpoint detection and response is an emerging technology that provides continuous monitoring of access points and a direct response to advanced threats. EDR solutions primarily focus on detecting events at the point of entry, containing the incident there to prevent network infection, investigation of any suspicious activity and remedial action to restore system integrity. Traditional endpoint protection platforms (EPP) are primarily preventative. EDR enhances threat detection far beyond the capabilities of traditional EPP solutions and actively hunts down anomalies using behavioral monitoring and AI tools. As the nature of the cyber threat morphs and changes, we expect to see a new wave of security solutions combining traditional EPP with emerging EDR technologies.

8. Deep fake videos

Seeing is no longer believing. Automated AI technologies have been developed to both create and detect deep fake videos. Videos might depict a celebrity or politician engaged in illegal or pornographic activity or a head of state making inflammatory comments. Even when the images have been shown to be fake there could be lasting reputational damage or severe irredeemable consequences. Not only does this highlight the importance of fact checking, but there is a worrying undercurrent to this tech. Deep fake videos often go viral, making them an excellent tool for spreading malware and launching phishing attacks. In the coming year, we all need to watch out for this pernicious trend.

9. Cloud security

The migration of service and computing solutions to the cloud has brought many benefits to the enterprise. However, it has also opened up new areas of risk. The cybersecurity skills gap remains worryingly wide, and a new generation of cybercriminals are enthusiastically probing cloud-based services for vulnerabilities. Many in the enterprise remain uncertain to what degree they are responsible for securing data, and even the best system can be compromised by a breach in protocol. We need to redefine security for the cloud and get proactive.

10. User awareness

In almost all of the above areas, the final word is on user awareness. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and we all have to take ownership of the risks if we are to secure our data and networks. Above all, we hope the coming year will see an increased awareness on the part of all users, combined with more comprehensive education in threat limitation and remediation. Knowledge is power, and it is within our grasp.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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