Cybersecurity Trends for 2018

McAfee Labs 2018 Threats Predictions Report identifies five key trends for cybersecurity to watch

McAfee report focuses on the evolution of ransomware, cybersecurity implications of serverless apps, consumer privacy implications of corporations monitoring consumers in their own homes, long-term implications of corporations gathering children’s user-generated content and emergence of a machine learning innovation race between defenders and adversaries.

The report examines current trends in cybercrime and IT evolution and anticipates what the future may hold for organizations working to take advantage of new technologies to both advance their businesses and provide better security protection.

Development of machine learning arms race:

Machine learning can process massive quantities of data and perform operations at great scale to detect and correct known vulnerabilities, suspicious behavior and zero-day attacks. But adversaries will certainly employ machine learning themselves to support their attacks, learning from defensive responses, seeking to disrupt detection models, and exploiting newly discovered vulnerabilities faster than defenders can patch them.

To win this arms race, organizations must effectively augment machine judgment and the speed of orchestrated responses with human strategic intellect. Only then will organizations be able to understand and anticipate the patterns of how attacks might play out, even if they have never been seen before.

Ransomware will pivot from traditional extortion:

The profitability of traditional ransomware campaigns will continue to decline as vendor defenses, user education, and industry strategies improve to counter them. Attackers will adjust to target less traditional, more profitable ransomware targets, including high networth individuals, connected devices and businesses.

The pivot from the traditional will see ransomware technologies applied beyond the objective of extortion of individuals, to cyber sabotage and disruption of organizations. This drive among adversaries for greater damage, disruption, and the threat of greater financial impact will not only spawn new variations of cybercrime “business models,” but also begin to seriously drive the expansion of the cyber insurance market.

Serverless apps will increase attack surfaces:

Serverless apps enable greater granularity, such as faster billing for services but they are vulnerable to attacks exploiting privilege escalation and application dependencies. The apps are also vulnerable to attacks on data in transit across a network, and potentially to brute-force denial of service attacks, in which the serverless architecture fails to scale and incurs expensive service disruptions.

Function development and deployment processes must include the necessary security processes, scalability capabilities must be made available and traffic must be appropriately protected by VPNs or encryption.

Collecting consumer behaviour through connected home device:

Connected home device manufacturers and service providers will seek to overcome thin profit margins by gathering more of our personal data—with or without our agreement—turning the home into a corporate store front. Corporate marketers will have powerful incentives to observe consumer behavior in order to understand the buying needs and preferences of the device owners. Because customers rarely read privacy agreements, corporations will be tempted to frequently change them after the devices and services are deployed to capture more information and revenue.

McAfee believes that there will be regulatory consequences for corporations that make the calculation to break existing laws, pay fines, and continue such practices, thinking they can do so profitably.

Corporations collecting children’s digital content will pose reputation risks:

In their pursuit of user app “stickiness,” corporations will become more aggressive in enabling and gathering user-generated content from younger users. In 2018, parents will become aware of notable corporate abuses of digital content generated by children, and consider the potential long-term implications of these practices for their own children.

McAfee believes many future adults will suffer from negative “digital baggage,” user content developed in a user-app environment where socially appropriate guidelines are not yet well defined or enforced, and where the user interface is so personally engaging that children and their parents do not consider the consequences of creating content that corporations could use and potentially abuse in the future.

In a competitive app environment where “stickiness” easily becomes “unstuck,” the most enterprising, forward-looking apps and services will recognize the brand-building value of making themselves a partner with parents in this education effort.

In the corporate world, McAfee predicts that the May 2018 implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) could play an important role in setting ground rules on the handling of both consumer data and user-generated content in the years to come. The new regulatory regime impacts companies that either have a business presence in EU countries, or process the personal data of EU residents, meaning that companies from around the world will be compelled to adjust the way in which they process, store, and protect customers’ personal data.