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Darktrace 2019 Predictions: Malicious AI, New Variations on ICS Attacks, Trust Attacks

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2019.  Read them in this 11th annual series exclusive.

Contributed by Justin Fier, Director for Cyber Intelligence & Analytics at Darktrace

Malicious AI, New Variations on ICS Attacks, Trust Attacks

In today's complex digital environments, machines are fighting machines, and advanced attackers and criminal groups are contriving sophisticated new ways to perpetrate their missions. The corporate network has become a battlefield, where the stakes are control of digital assets and, ultimately, the ability of the organization to function. Given what Darktrace has seen across its customer-base of 7,000 deployments in 2018, these are the three main trends we predict will dominate headlines in the coming years.

Malicious AI

The use of AI to defend organizations from cyber-attack is by now well-established best practice. The possibility of the flip side to this - bad actors harnessing the power of AI to attack organizations - has long been discussed and rumored as a possibility. After seeing increasingly automated and sophisticated attacks in the wild in 2018 (Trickbot malware, worming crypto-mining malware, and SquirtDanger (known as the Swiss Army knife malware)), we look to the future of AI-driven cyber-attacks.

Infrastructure attacks

Since the attacks on the Ukrainian power grid in 2016, and Triton in 2017, attacks on industrial environments have become mainstream. With several nation states providing warnings in 2018 about ongoing targeting of their energy grids, 2019 looks set for increasing numbers of high profile cyber-attacks on our critical infrastructure. Darktrace is specifically looking at three threat vectors: smart meters and IoT devices, disruption of core logistics and transportation services (specifically in shipping), and sporting events infrastructure.

Influence, propaganda, and trust

Election meddling, fake news, and Twitter bots have created issues around trust on the web at the center of political discourse. As we begin to see AI-powered chat bots, and extensive influence peddling through social media, we face the prospect of the internet as a weapon to undermine trust and control public opinion. This raises deep issues about how to validate and control the flow of information which will have massive implications for the security of the private sector and public discourse alike, something that governments in both the UK and US are struggling with now. Controlling data may soon become more important than stealing it.

As networks have grown in scope and complexity, the opportunities for attackers to exploit the gaps have increased. Walls are no longer enough to protect a network, and rules-based tools cannot keep up with all possible attack vectors. A constantly evolving cyber-attack landscape requires a step up in our detection capability, using machine learning to understand the environment, filter the noise and take action where threats are identified.


About the Author


Justin Fier is the Director for Cyber Intelligence & Analytics at Darktrace, based in Washington D.C. Justin is one of the US's leading cyber intelligence experts, and his insights have been widely reported in leading media outlets, including Wall Street Journal, CNN, the Washington Post, and VICELAND. With over 10 years of experience in cyber defense, Justin has supported various elements in the US intelligence community, holding mission-critical security roles with Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems and Abraxas. Justin is also a highly-skilled technical specialist, and works with Darktrace's strategic global customers on threat analysis, defensive cyber operations, protecting IoT, and machine learning.

Published Friday, January 11, 2019 7:27 AM by David Marshall
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