- Cybercriminal underground to consolidate and collaborate through stronger partnerships
- Prevalence of attack outsourcing will lead to use of artificial intelligence in evasion tactics
- Bad actors will combine multiple attack types to create synergistic super threats
- Cybercriminals to use bots, negative social media campaigns to extort brands
- Significant increase expected in data exfiltration attempts from the cloud
- Digital assistants to become the next vector for home IoT attacks
- Data-rich social media platforms will continue to be popular attack targets
The McAfee Labs 2019 Threats Predictions Report identifies rising trends and how they are predicted to change the cyberthreat landscape in 2019. McAfee researchers expect malware-as-a-service families to strengthen, energizing the market for attack outsourcing and the evolution of increasingly innovative and agile attack methods. As a result, corporate data, home IoT devices and brand reputations will be under siege, with cybercriminals largely using social media, the cloud and mobile phones as increasingly prominent attack vectors.
“In 2018, we witnessed even greater collaboration among cybercriminals through underground alliances,” said Raj Samani, chief scientist at McAfee. “This collaborative mentality has allowed for efficiencies in underground technologies and tactics, and the evolution of bad actors into some of the most organized and agile adversaries in the world. However, while we expect the underground market collaboration to continue, the year 2019 will also see cybersecurity alliances of defenders continuing to mature and further fortify defences.”
The report reflects the informed opinions of thought leaders from McAfee Labs, McAfee Advanced Threat Research, and members of McAfee’s Office of the CTO. It examines current trends in cybercrime and the evolution of IT, and anticipates what the future may hold for organizations, consumers, and those working to protect them.
A Stronger, More Effective Cybercriminal Underground
Cybercriminals are quickly fortifying the malware-as-a-service market by aligning to sell modular attack components. These one-stop shops make it easier for criminals of all experience and skill levels to execute successful attacks. This market consolidation will continue in 2019 and cybercriminal enterprises are expected to flourish as established cyber gangs partner with other top-level services such as money laundering, evasion techniques, and vulnerability exploits. As evidenced by conversations within the underground community, an increase is expected in mobile malware, botnets, banking fraud, ransomware, and attempts to bypass two-factor authentication.
Cyberattacks Made Simpler with Easy Access to Technologies
As security gets stronger, bad actors need to be increasingly inventive. The availability of modular attack components on the underground market is expected to enable attackers to combine and repurpose established tactics and technologies to achieve new goals.
- Artificial Intelligence for Improved Evasion: The accessibility of technologies such as artificial intelligence-as-a-service will enable cybercriminals to develop cyberattacks with increasingly sophisticated evasion techniques. With artificial intelligence, cybercriminals will have the ability to automate target selection, scan for target network vulnerabilities, and assess the posture and responsiveness of infected environments to avoid detection before deploying later stages of attacks.
- Nation-State Strategies Repurposed for Corporate Extortion: Bots used to amplify deceitful messaging have already been created and are available for sale on the cybercriminal underground. Following in the footsteps of recent infamous nation-state campaigns to sway public opinion, cybercriminals will likely repurpose bots and leverage social media to extort organizations by threatening their brands.
- Synergistic Super threats for Attack Success: Bad actors are expected to evolve their usual strategy centred on the use of a single threat, in favour of combining several attack types to bypass defences. For example, by combining phishing, steganography and file less malware for an attack with multiple goals. These synergistic super threats will work together, blurring the traditional defence panorama and complicating the process to identify and mitigate the attack.
Cloud, Home IoT, and Social Media Platforms Under Siege
With access to increasingly effective tactics and strategies, bad actors will have the ability to focus their attacks on broader and more complicated targets. In 2019, cybercriminals are anticipated to target intellectual property, Internet of Things (IoT) in the home and identity credentials via the cloud, digital assistants, and social media platforms, respectively.
- Data Exfiltration Attacks via the Cloud: McAfee foresees a significant increase in targeted attacks on the large amounts of corporate data now residing in the cloud. As much as 21% of the content now managed in the cloud contains sensitive materials such as intellectual property, customer and personal data. Possible scenarios include cloud-native attacks targeting weak APIs or ungoverned API endpoints, expanded reconnaissance and exfiltration of data in cloud databases, and leverage of the cloud as a springboard for cloud-native man-in-the-middle attacks to launch crypto jacking or ransomware attacks.
- Home IoT Attacks via Smartphones, Tablets, and Routers: New mobile malware will likely investigate smartphones, tablets, and routers to gain access to the digital assistants and home IoT devices they control. Once infected, these devices can serve as a picklock to consumer homes while supplying botnets, which can launch DDoS attacks or grant cybercriminal access to personal data and the opportunity for other malicious activities such as opening doors and connecting to control servers.
- Identity Attacks via Social Media Platforms: In 2019, large-scale social media platforms will implement additional measures to protect customer information. However, as the platforms grow in numbers, cybercriminals will be further enticed to focus their resources on attacking the data-rich environments. High-impact attacks, such as those targeting industrial control systems, have seen success in part due to static password use across environments. Successful social media and other identity platform and edge device breaches will provide the keys to adversaries to launch similar attacks in the future.