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2019 Predictions: Part One

The year of 2018 was certainly a busy one for the information security industry. Threats and breaches were aplenty and whilst trends like DDoS and ransomware played a notably less significant role than in 2017, phishing attacks hit companies hard and business email compromise skyrocketed over the course of the year. We also saw the growth of a few new threats that seemed to catch many by surprise. The most noticeable of these were the rise of cryptojacking as a means to mine cryptocurrency, and the Magecart attacks that skimmed millions of credit card details by targeting a range of big name brands.

As 2018 draws to a close, the industry now turns its thoughts to next year and preparing for the trends, threats and challenges that 2019 might have in store for businesses and consumers.

Rogue AI-Driven Chatbots

One trend that experts at WatchGuard predict will have an impact in 2019 will be the threat of AI-driven chatbots going rogue, with hackers expected to create malicious chatbots that try to socially engineer victims into clicking links, downloading files or sharing private information.

With Artificial Intelligence and machine learning growing rapidly in sophistication and usability, automated chat robots have become increasingly used as a first layer of customer support and engagement, freeing up human time for more complex issues.

However, WatchGuard has warned that life-like AI chatbots offer new attack vectors for hackers. For example, a hijacked chatbot could misdirect victims to nefarious links rather than legitimate ones and attackers could also leverage web application flaws in legitimate websites to insert a malicious chatbot into a site that doesn’t have one.

WatchGuard also predicts that next year attackers will start to experiment with malicious chatbots to socially engineer victims, starting with basic text-based bots and then possibly developing to use human speech bots like Google Duplex to socially engineer victims over the phone or other voice connections.

“There are two groups that need to prepare for and defend against rogue AI-driven chatbots – the owners of web applications, and the users themselves,” Corey Nachreiner, CTO at WatchGuard Technologies, told Infosecurity. “For web administrators, defending against the threat of rogue chatbots is all about secure web applications coding practices. If you design your site securely, malicious actors should not be able to inject a fake chatbot onto your site.

“The user side of this equation is a bit harder, and mostly involves awareness and vigilance. In short, you should remain slightly suspicious of any link you encounter on the internet. Most chatbots are likely perfectly legitimate. However, if a chatbot ever directs you to a link, you should analyze that link a bit before blindly clicking it,” he adds.

The First BIG GDPR Fine

Another trend that is predicted to be poignant in 2019 is large regulatory fines, most notably those handed out by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) under the GDPR.

“We’re going to get our first big GDPR fine [in 2019],” said David Francis, head of security at IT services provider KCOM. “If 2018 was the year of compliance, 2019 will be the year of retribution for everyone’s favorite data privacy regulation.”

The period of grace is drawing to a close, and the New Year will see the ICO taking its first high-profile scalp over treatment of personally identifiable information, Francis adds.

“That will set the precedent by which all further cases are judged – letting companies know along the way just how strictly enforced the rules are going to be, and how heavy the fines. Now is the time to check your compliance levels – don’t wait for the hammer to fall.”

Cloud Complexities

Thirdly, Martin Holste, chief technology officer for cloud at FireEye, warns that cloud-based challenges will evolve in 2019.

“A lot of data is moving to the cloud and the attackers are going right along with it,” he explained in FireEye’s Facing Forward: Cyber Security in 2019 and Beyond report. “We’re seeing a massive uptick in the number of incidents that involve cloud, and that’s really just attackers following the data.”

The big challenge of the cloud is that the attack surface is everything, he added, and organizations still have a lot to do when it comes to cloud security, and in 2019 they really need to be asking the right kinds of questions. Do you know who is logging into your infrastructure right now? Do you know who is accessing it? If someone downloads a file, do you know if they were supposed to download it?

“Sometimes an attacker will infiltrate an on-premises network and then move into the cloud from there, and sometimes vice versa,” he explained. “That’s something to be mindful of in 2019 – monitoring connections between your hybrid data center that’s on premises and your cloud is really important.”

As you can see, experts predict that there will be plenty keeping the industry busy next year, and that’s just the takeaways from Part One of our three-part 2019 Predictions series. Keep your eyes peeled for Parts Two and Three, which Infosecurity will be bringing to you very soon!

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