By Mel Morris, Chief Technology Officer at Webroot
From Stuxnet to Sony, a number of cyberattacks emerged in 2011 that experts have predicted for quite some time. I predict 2012 will be even more pivotal, thrusting cybersecurity into the spotlight. These are my top seven forecasts for the year ahead:
Looking back over the past year, an increasing number of breaches were the result of custom malware and exploits targeting specific enterprises. I predict 2012 will be the year of targeted attacks, which have slowly evolved from large-scale threats to unique attacks designed to infect a handful of very specific people. Traditional blacklist and signature approaches have already become ineffective; once a virus is spotted, malware writers simply create a new one. As targeted, zero-day attacks intensify, more security vendors will realize the pressing need to analyze threats and behavior more holistically.
For the last several years, the security industry and cybercriminals have had a symbiotic relationship that has kept the market in balance. The "good guys" have done just enough to thwart attacks — and the bad guys haven’t needed to dramatically evolve as they’re still making money doing exactly what they’re doing. I predict the scales will tip in the coming year. More innovative and effective security technology will drive a revolution and we’ll see a heated battle emerge between security companies and cybercriminals. It’s survival of the fittest. As soon as cloud-based technology and behavioral protection strengthen their foothold in the antimalware sector, hackers and cyber mafias will up the ante and scope out new vulnerabilities.
The Stuxnet worm is an example of something we detected long ago, and its impact has now taken on a whole new meaning. The virus’s sophisticated ability to infiltrate government systems, silently gather information, and disable nuclear power plants has prompted a wakeup call, driving leaders to reassess federal technology standards and regulations. Stuxnet gives us a very real and very scary glimpse of what’s to come.
Now that Cloud has an "i" front of it, the cloud will truly hit the mainstream. The appeal of file sharing and remote access will be a major draw for an increasingly tech savvy population that connects to the Internet from tablets, smartphones, and multiple PCs. This will not only drive widespread adoption of cloud-based tools and applications amongst consumers, but it will dramatically accelerate migration in the business world. Many companies are already on board with cloud platforms and applications, but the power of the masses will act as a tipping point, pushing the vast majority of IT professionals to shun old-school, on-premise approaches and look to the cloud for infrastructure and data solutions.
Security companies have done a fairly good job of stopping attacks at the endpoint, and this will lead cybercriminals to focus their efforts more heavily on mobile devices, which are still quite vulnerable in today’s environment. We will see an increase in Android and iPhone attacks: rogue apps, malicious links, and spyware targeted at smartphones and tablets. It’s all about data, and business users and consumers alike store an abundance of highly sensitive and poorly guarded information on their mobile devices.
Rogue Android apps are just the tip of the iceberg. We load our mobile devices with applications that are designed to simplify our lives, yet we don’t stop to consider what else they are capable of – or what someone is capable of manipulating them to do. Even legitimate apps can grab information and use it without our permission. A simple glance at an application like Plane Finder illustrates the vast amount of data that is at anyone’s fingertips. And that’s not to mention the many other opportunities roaming devices present; a criminal could leverage a mobile device to pick up data from a nearby network, or hack into a plane’s WiFi connection and send signals to devices left in improper flight mode.
When it comes to security, the weakest link has always been people. In 2012, indifference toward security will diminish. Businesses will invest in security and strengthen duty of care measures. Employees and consumers will see the ramifications of breaches and begin incorporating smart Internet practices into their everyday behaviors.