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Cybersecurity in the age of automation

Digitalization has seeped its way into all areas of society in the postmodern world, namely in the developed world, be it politics or economics; it has changed our lives for the better in the ways that we interact with one another and go about our daily lives. While it has simplified a number of processes and enabled businesses to become more efficient, it has brought about a great deal of vulnerabilities that were not previously accounted for to organizations that use these new emerging technologies.

Due to this, organizations looking to deploy emerging tech into their day to day business operations need to move away from the traditional ‘fortressed city’ approach and instead, integrate more innovative measure into their strategies as well as their practical and legal procedures as we venture into the (somewhat) unknown learn more about the potential implications of emerging tech.

While risks often bring about rewards, unforeseen challenges could also be involved. Long gone are the days of traditional ICT systems; as we move more towards software and the cloud, new cybersecurity challenges are created.

Rapid advancements in emerging technologies, namely in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, have shaped the cybersecurity landscape of the future. These advancements have transformed endpoint security and many businesses have hopped onto this trend, while others are still lagging behind, for various reasons, some of which could be their underestimation of the benefits of these technologies or their not being able to afford such a grand investment.

However, the reality is that hackers are only getting smarter and cyberattacks are only becoming more calculated and elaborate; if large organizations don’t realize this soon enough, they will be vulnerable to such attacks.

“Even though companies are investing ever increasing amounts in cyber security compliance, there still is no such thing as perfect cyber security,” said Joel Harrison, a partner at international law firm, Milbank.

Peter McLaughlin, a partner at transatlantic law firm, Womble Bond Dickinson, stated, “The use of malware that leaves little, if any, trace increasingly permits attackers to roam systems for weeks or months before detection.”

McLaughlin added, “Email continues to be a highly effective delivery method, as phishing and social engineering in their various forms remain highly successful. As people become more aware of email risk, we are also seeing this expand via texting and social networking attacks. The opponents keep shifting their approaches. 

BeyondTrust, a worldwide leader in Privileged Access Management (PAM), recently announced its top security predictions for 2020 and into 2025. Morey j. Haber, Chief of Technology and Information Security, as well as Christopher Hills, Senior Solutions Architect at Beyond Trust, have combined their years of expertise in the industry and their broad perspective of the current cybersecurity landscape to deliver these forecasts for 2020 and the years to come.

They found that Malware auto-updates have increased. Since many applications auto-update, cyber criminals now target cloud-based update mechanisms using a wide range of techniques. Most users trust that their applications will auto-update and many may not be aware of the threats that could be posed by a compromised cloud connection. Although traditional software piracy is declining as more and more organizations move to the cloud, the creativity of cyber criminals will persist to increase and zone in on auto-updates to infect users. BeyondTrust expects that high profile applications and operating systems will be targeted by such advanced threats in 2020.

January 2020 will mean the end for Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7. The company has found that there still remains a significant amount of users that are using devices which run on these operating systems which would in turn pose great vulnerabilities which will only be subsided once these operating systems are replaced. Replacing end-of-life software could be quite costly and difficult so they predict that by 2020 they may be targeted by cyber criminals at an accelerated rate which could in turn, pose an unmanageable risk to a variety of users and organizations.

In addition to this, it has been forecasted that identities will become the latest attack vector. Indeed, in recent years, privileged attacks vectors have been steadily increasing where threat actors compromise accounts and the engage in lateral movement to compromise additional assets and accounts with stolen credentials. Since cyber criminals are becoming more refined their impersonation strategies such as through the use of DeepFake technology, it will become increasingly difficult to differentiate between a real and a fake identity. This could lead to more elaborate impersonation methods such as fake phone calls with spoofed accents, the hijacking of user accounts on social media and even biometric hacking. These possibilities could be particularly threatening in the event of political elections.

Moreover, according to Unit 42, the threat intelligence team of esteemed cybersecurity organization Palo Alto, more than 32,000 Wi-Fi routers are potentially vulnerable to Gafgyt, also known as Bashlite, has been active for the past five years as far as Unit 42 is concerned and has apparently been updated to target devices from a variety of different vendors, which include RealTek RT81XX and Huawei’s HG532, among others.

The unit 24 researchers found that wireless routers which have been previously exploited by malware could, in fact, become part of botnets which cybercriminals could use to sell distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks as a service.

However, this may not be the only malware which is targeting the aforementioned router models. Researchers have suggested that Gafgyt has been working to find routers that are connected to an open network via the device’s scanner function and once it has compromised any given router, it would then look for Jen X (a rival strain) and will replace it once it is found in an attempt to ensure that it has sole access and will be able to launch DDoS attacks on it.

It has been widely speculated that in the future it will grow increasingly difficult to avoid cyber breaches and that is why it is of the essence to mention that companies must ensure that they are prepared for an attack to take place at any time.

Rick Fischer, a senior partner at internationally renowned law firm, Morrison Foerster, echoed this sentiment by stating that, “Companies must not only examine and test their external firewalls, but also must examine and test their internal firewalls in an effort to promptly identify and address the potential impact of a data breach. It is no longer sufficient to have internal employees conduct security tests. Instead, it has become necessary for companies to employ external experts to test both external and internal firewalls and to assist internal compliance personnel in examining possible intrusions.”

Indeed, technology and the spread of digitalization will present tremendous opportunities and risks for organizations all over the world. As the 5G rollout edges closer and more devices are connected to the internet, the risks will begin to increase in volume and it is very important that organizations take them into account through changing or restructuring their cybersecurity strategies correspondingly.