2017 Cybersecurity Trends and Best Practices

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2017 Cybersecurity Trends and Best Practices

As 2017 is nearly upon us, cyber industry experts agree that with cyber attacks and data breaches aplenty, 2016 is probably the most unsecure year to date. This year, we saw businesses, consumers and even presidential campaigns become victims of ransomware, malware, phishing attacks and/or data leaks. From all-out-offensives like the recent Dyn DDoS attacks to the Yahoo data breach that was discovered a year ago, but began leaking data in 2014, the need to defend against the increasing frequency of cyber intrusion attempts is paramount.

If 2016 was the year hacking became mainstream, then what does 2017 have in store? According to both industry experts and the FBI Cyber Division, cyberattacks will continue to grow in 2017, but advances in technology do promise a move toward greater protection. In order to fight cybercrime and safeguard against future attacks, however, anticipating and preparing for emerging cybersecurity trends is key. Moving forward, businesses will need to make cybersecurity a top priority.

2017 Cybersecurity Trends and Best Practices

1. Flaws in security software will come under greater scrutiny

In June 2016, Google security researcher Tavis Ormandy and the Project Zero security team discovered critical vulnerabilities in Symantec and Norton antivirus security software products. Some of the flaws discovered were basic and should have been caught by the companies themselves. Others were much more serious. This has lead security experts to become more vocal in criticism of antivirus protection that’s essentially flawed.

The vulnerabilities found by Ormandy can be used by hackers to create wormable remote code execution, basically rendering products from Symantec and Norton useless. What’s even more worrying is that these two companies provide security software to millions of consumers across federal, state, private and international sectors, but not all customers are capable of receiving automatic patches to their systems – leaving a significant amount of machines still at risk.

By nature, security software is trusted by many consumers, which both attracts hackers and gives consumers a false sense of security if the software is flawed. While there has not been any evidence of exploitation so far, users must patch vulnerabilities in their Symantec and Norton antivirus products immediately. In order to mitigate further risk, users should restrict admin and remote access to authorized privileged users/systems only, keep all operating systems and application up-to-date with vendor patches, and follow a multi-layered approach to security that includes more than just antivirus protection.

2. Ransomware attacks will continue to rise

Ransomware is a type of malware that allows hackers to gain control of your data, encrypt it, and demand payment for the keys to recover the encrypted files. It’s the fastest growing malware threat today, with more than 50 new-variants being identified in 2016 alone – more than were seen in 2014 and 2015 combined.

According to the FBI Cyber Division, ransomware attacks will continue to disrupt both public and private industries because it’s unlikely that the ransomware business will become less profitable in the future. If anything, attackers could resort to selling sensitive personal or business information on the cyber underground, which could prove to be more damaging than what the attackers are presently doing.

Both the FBI and computer security companies are working to curb ransomware attacks. The FBI, in particular, has provided clear guidance that encourages victims to NOT pay the ransom as it does not guarantee access to stolen data. They also encourage users to maintain regular backups of their files on an external server or device that can scrub their hard drive to remove the ransomware and restore their files. If everyone just followed this advice of backup and recovery, ransomware wouldn’t be such a profitable business!

3. IoT could open backdoors into the connected home and go undetected for years

Internet of Things (IoT) devices, such as doorbells, thermostats and refrigerators that are able to connect to the internet can give hackers access to home Wi-Fi networks and email logins. As people add more IoT devices to their smart homes, they are at a greater risk of exposing their private information to hackers and becoming the victims of cybercrime.

What’s even more dangerous is that certain IoT devices, such as self-driving cars, can present serious security and physical threats to consumers. A new hack of the Chrysler fix and a reported Tesla sensor hack are proof that hackers continue to gain ground with new intrusion successes. It seems as though worms are developing fast for every IoT device, making protection all the more necessary.

By default, IoT devices can connect to the internet and come with set passwords. What users don’t know is that they need to change these default security controls if they want to protect themselves. The standard regulations on IoT devices and the serious lack of security features in the code currently make it too easy for hackers to infect networks with malware and take control. Expect the security of IoT coding to come under stricter scrutiny in 2017.

4. Attacks on public figures will rise

The 2016 presidential election provided a glimpse into what’s possible when a public figure’s private information is leaked. Both the Democratic National Convention (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) revealed earlier this year that their networks had been comprised. The parties responsible for these attacks were two sophisticated Russian intelligence affiliated hacker groups, Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear.

The 2016 presidential election provided a glimpse into what’s possible when a public figure’s private information is leaked. Both the Democratic National Convention (DNC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) revealed earlier this year that their networks had been comprised. The parties responsible for these attacks were two sophisticated Russian intelligence affiliated hacker groups, Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear.

What does all that tell us? Foreign powers by way of hacking actively undermined the democracy of a world super power during its presidential election and may have had a hand in the results. The implication that a foreign power can control or direct the affairs of another country by leaking private information is not to be taken lightly.

The best way to combat this kind of attack is to be aware of the kinds of methods being used by hackers. One of the ways Russian hackers were successful was due to broadly targeted spear phishing campaigns that included malicious web links and droppers that once activated on a system can evade detection and give hackers remote access to the machines. Organizations need to train their employees to be suspicious of unsolicited email and only open ones from trusted sources. Employees also need to be taught to never open unexpected deliveries and always verify any changes to customer or vendor details. If you receive a suspicious package from overseas containing small, odd looking pieces that no one ordered, do NOT “Google” the company’s name and click on their website. It could download malware on your system!

5. Increased collaboration between industry experts and law enforcement will put a dent in cybercrime

Security experts agree that in order to fight cybercrime, we need more sharing and not competition in security. Security professionals need to share information both amongst themselves and with law enforcement if they want to make security products more effective and curb the growth of cybercrime in 2017.

6. Human expertise will be brought into the mix

A big trend we will be seeing in 2017 is the blending of human expertise with companies that promise purely technology-based security solutions. If companies only provide software to a client that does nothing by notify them of every potential hack, the client is going to become conditioned to ignoring those warnings. Instead, companies need a more proactive approach; they need security experts to lay traps that will catch attackers.

7. The demand for cyber insurance will increase

Small business owners were particularly hurt by cyberattacks in 2016 because they lack the resources of larger companies. As cyber attacks continue to increase, small and large companies alike will start considering cyber security insurance to protect their business in the event of a data breach or other cyber threat in 2017.

For their part, insurance companies will start looking at measures and best practices for companies to decrease risk of an attack. Those companies that don’t implement these measures must pay higher premiums or be denied insurance.

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