Happy 2020! As a practitioner and consultant I’m excited to see what the year brings in terms of new technology, research, and clever Twitter and blog posts from the security community. To get the ball rolling, here are six security trends to keep your eye on as we start the new year.
We will see more discovered vulnerabilities in, and attacks against, so-called “smart home” products, such as smart speakers, security systems, and cameras. Any time we see widespread deployment of technology that is, relatively speaking, in the early stages of maturity, we expect that attackers will pay attention and work to discover ways to circumvent security functions of these devices. In the last few months we’ve seen lasers used to surreptitiously command smart speakers, attackers remotely compromise smart home devices, and the inadvertent disclosure of PII from smart camera owners by the camera’s vendor. Expect attackers to look for, find, and exploit ways to control, obtain sensitive data from, and disrupt these devices.
Because of the 2020 presidential election, we expect that social influence operations will substantially escalate from foreign states that have an interest in our country’s politics. This will include social media “news” posts, activity programmatically generated by computer-controlled (or “bot”) accounts, and an uptick in spam e-mail and robocalls to your phone. There’s also the possibility that attackers will target our voting machines. Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center published an excellent paper on the risks and some countermeasures and controls to ensure our elections are conducted with integrity and security.
Opportunistic attacks—those that aren’t focused on a specific individual or organization, but instead sent broadly to the public Internet—are certainly still going to happen, but we are seeing more and more ransomware incidents that are deliberate in nature, with a focused effort on a specific organization (say, the City of Baltimore or New Orleans). Attackers will build phishing and social engineering campaigns designed to exploit human weaknesses, as well as find exposed infrastructure with technical weaknesses and misconfiguration that will allow them a presence on the network. They will use this presence to install ransomware on key systems, attempting to impact the organization’s operations sufficiently to encourage payment.
We also expect to see “business e-mail compromise” attacks continue, as attackers conduct similar focused campaigns to obtain access to trusted e-mail accounts, and use that access to trick employees into providing cash, gift cards, funds transfers, or financial information. It is by far the most common successful “cyber” attack we see in our customer environments, one that’s trivial for an attacker to perform with commoditized tools and methodologies, and susceptible users at nearly every business.
Attackers will focus research efforts on credential theft, bypass of so-called “next generation” endpoint protection solutions, and defeating multi-factor authentication. We can expect to see new standalone tools, shared code, and malware kits that leverage these advances.
That means if you serve customers in California and (a) make $25M in revenue, (b) possess personal data for more than 50,000 individuals, or (c) sell personal data and make more than 50% of your revenue from that effort, you are subject to the law. You’re required to tell customers what data you’re collecting about them, provide this data to them when requested, and delete it when requested. The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) made this practice more common in 2018, but we anticipate a greater number of US businesses will be looking to add it in 2020.