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Darktrace 2018 Predictions: Cyber Intelligence Expert Shares Predictions for Cybersecurity in 2018

VMblog Predictions 2018

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2018.  Read them in this 10th annual series exclusive.

Contributed by Justin Fier, Director of Cyber Intelligence and Analysis at Darktrace

Cyber Intelligence Expert Shares Predictions for Cybersecurity in 2018

From WannaCry to Bad Rabbit to the Equifax breach, 2017 was a busy year for the cybersecurity industry. In 2018, we most likely won't catch a break as we anticipate threat actors will use AI tools to deploy full-scale attacks. The hacks of the past were primarily executed with one goal in mind -- to make money as fast as possible. But 2018 will see the emergence of threat actors that devote more time and resources to produce long scale attacks to steal sensitive information. Not only will the goal of threat actors evolve, but the attacks will become more widespread.

1. Targeted, machine-speed attacks powered by AI are emerging 

AI won't just be used by the good guys. In 2018, we will start to see the emergence of sophisticated threat-actors harnessing AI technology to launch targeted, automated, and advanced campaigns. Imagine a highly sophisticated piece of malware that leverages AI to mimic writing styles, review appointments, and send "directions" for an upcoming meeting to the victim. The email is so context-specific that targets instantly click on emails, unknowingly downloading dangerous attachments. The future of cyber defense will be machines vs machines on the battleground of corporate networks - defenders need to be ready.

2. Large-scale attacks will become automated - and hackers won't discriminate 

2017 saw the emergence of automated lateral movement capabilities causing widespread attacks from WannaCry to NotPetya to EternalBlue. Indeed, cyber-criminals go where the money goes: adopting an automated lateral movement capability lets them infect a different magnitude of devices compared to past years. 2018 will see more of this - pairing automation with ransomware, spear-phishing, and IoT to effectively target a vast and insurmountable number of victims. These ‘wiper' attacks won't discriminate - merely participating in a national economy now appears to be sufficient justification to make an organization a target. No company is out of scope for malicious intent, even if they think they have nothing worth stealing.

3. Attackers will threaten the integrity of organizations' data - manipulating the market on the way 

The hacks of the past year have heralded a new era. Rather than only aiming to make a quick buck, hackers are devoting more time and resources into longer lead campaigns with a different goal - the integrity of information. These ‘trust attacks' can cause long-term, reputational damage to high net worth individuals or organizations through the erosion of trust in the data itself. Imagine the plummeting faith consumers could have in their organizations and governments should a widespread breach of sensitive M&A deals or government elections manipulate stock prices. Tomorrow's attackers aren't motivated purely by dollars - and organizations must be prepared.

4. Sophisticated threat-actors will target critical infrastructure 

We have all read the headlines and know that nation-state attacks are real. We have to assume that any large economic power is involved in highly sophisticated cyber campaigns - and it's a certainty that they have resources and times backing these initiatives. In late 2017, the U.S. government issued a rare public warning that sophisticated threat-actors are targeting industrial firms. It is almost a certainty that in 2018, we will see an uptick in sophisticated campaigns against national critical infrastructure, aiming to take down power grids and leave hundreds of thousands of citizens powerless. Troubling still, it doesn't even have to be limited to nation-states. Cyber-criminals now have access to a variety of nation-state toolkits on the DarkWeb, and it's only a matter of time before they begin investing the resources into launching large-scale campaigns of their own.

5. AI won't just be predictive - it will fight back 

In 2017, AI met the challenge of identifying never-before-seen cyber-threats by understanding ‘self' for corporate networks. In 2018, those networks will become self-defending, uniquely capable of taking precise, targeted action to neutralize cyber-attacks as they emerge. 2018 will truly be the year of machines fighting machines within organizations - may the strongest algorithms win.


About the Author

Justin Fier

Justin Fier is the Director for Cyber Intelligence & Analytics at Darktrace, based in Washington D.C. With over 10 years of experience in cyber defense, Fier has supported various elements in the US intelligence community, holding mission-critical security roles with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems and Abraxas. Fier is a highly-skilled technical officer, and a specialist in cyber operations across both offensive and defensive arenas. 

Published Wednesday, December 13, 2017 7:17 AM by David Marshall
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