Cyber Security Threats to Look Out for in 2018 - Part 1

Shadowy character in front of computerCybercriminals keep abreast of new technology so that they can find new avenues, methods, and tools to breach the virtual defenses of individuals, companies and even government-owned establishments. Rates of cybercrimes are rising with every passing year. With the help of the data gathered by Accenture, a global management company, we can summarize the situation of cyber defense and crimes for the past year in the US.

There were around 130 major cybersecurity breaches that occurred throughout the year, which are 22.7 percent more than the previous year (2016)..Businesses also had to spend more than $11 million to make their cyber defense close to full proof; that is to say that no web security algorithms can make any establishment completely full proof. Hackers have successfully infiltrated such well-guarded institutions as the NSA, FBI and the White House, as well as financial institutions, health care facilities and electric utilities. But we can work to keep these attacks to a bare minimum.

In this backdrop, we can see that cybercrime is continuing to grow, so we must work to stay on top of these threats on a daily level. Here we will discuss some of the significant cyber threats and attacks to look out for in 2018.

More Attacks of Ransomware

Money handed over to computer screenRansomware is a method by which a hacker infiltrates your computer blocks access to your data using a 256bit encryption algorithm. If you think that you can find an expert who can crack this 256bit encryption, forgetaboutit!. Even if you use the fastest supercomputer in the world, it will take millions of years to crack the 256-bit encryption algorithm. Then once your data is (criminally) encrypted, they will message you telling you that you must pay a certain amount of money to them and then they will release the encryption, maybe.

By going through the record of the past year, it can easily be said that Ransomware will continue to be a favorite money maker for cybercriminals. Cloud databases of large organizations continue to get attacked and breached. There are two reasons why cyber attackers adopt this specialized type of crime:

  • To score the hefty amount of ransom immediately since multinational conglomerates act fast in neutralizing this type of crisis
  • To tarnish the market and public reputation of a company since these big cyber attacks make headlines worldwide

In 2017, some noticeable Ransomware attacks happened including one on Britain’s NHS, FedEx and on the database of San Francisco’s rail network.

Organizations with poor backup systems often have to pay these ransoms to get back access to their data. Many companies with extensive cloud operations have become cautious of such attacks and therefore have hired the best of the lot security specialists, but that still doesn't make your network security apparatus foolproof. The NSA, CIA and the White House have all been hacked but using the latest technological advances can definitely slow them down or even discourage them from accessing your computer networks.

Attacks Instigated Through Artificial Intelligence

With every passing year, artificial intelligence (AI) is getting more and more advanced. Scientists are now able to develop and design neural networks that can virtually mimic human behavior. Cybercriminals who utilize the most up-to-date technologies have started the malevolent use of AI. And it will only increase and expand in coming years.

Ironically, AI is being employed by organizations to foresee and predict instances of cyber attacks, but cybercriminals are also using the same technological advances to carry out attacks with more agility and shrewdness.

For instance, neural networks have become smart enough to devise and create messages to carry out spear-phishing attacks. AI could also be employed to develop multiple malware coding to trick security programs. So, the chances that we will see more cyber attacks led by artificial intelligence this year are higher than ever.

Cyber-Physical Attacks

Cyber-physical attacks are a combination of inflictions that target important infrastructure sites (e.g. transportation networks and electricity grids). This type of cyberattack is usually carried out to cause physical damages through political motivations. Cyber-physical attacks are not new and these critical infrastructure sites remain vulnerable to such assaults, even if they are using most hardened computer systems.

In recent times, there were two such cases where cyber-physical attacks were instigated due to reasons other than money. One example was when North Korea attacked Sony Corporation's computers, apparently in retaliation for a satire comedy film depicting Kim Jong-Un. In retaliation for that, although never publicly confirmed, it is widely assumed that the US was responsible for a cyberattack on North Korea's electricity grids, which put the entire country in a blackout for at least 24 hours.

In 2016, an electricity grid in the capital of Ukraine got hacked by criminals, plunging around 20 percent of the city into darkness. The attack had its root in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Another similar attack was carried out 8 years ago on an Iranian Nuclear Plant, by the name of Stuxnet. The attack became possible because industrial computer systems of the facility were less protected.

With political turmoil unfolding across the globe, we can only see more of such attacks in the passing year. Worse yet, we are in the coming age of the destructive power of an EMP or electrical magnetic pulse. In the next article, we will extend our discussion to some other cyber threats that businesses and organizations will be subjected to in the coming years.

Posted On January 31, 2018