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Future cyber threats: Stolen fingerprints to smart botnets

7th June 2018

Categories: Latest News

Ollie Whitehouse, global chief technology officer at NCC Group

The world of cyber threats is ever-growing, since each new technology brings its own set of associated risks. But what does the immediate future hold in terms of cyber threats and security considerations?

You can’t change your fingerprint

With fingerprint authentication now embedded within almost all top-end smartphones and Apple’s Face ID making facial recognition software mainstream, many will argue that the traditional password is dying off in favour of more convenient biometric security methods.

We are likely to see growing adoption of this technology in the enterprise and in retail applications. But biometrics are not the panacea to authentication. Passwords allow us to keep secrets – and change them when we wish – in a way that biometrics do not. Therefore, it's likely that over the next year or so, we see more systems and applications combining PINs, passwords and biometrics to deliver multi-factor authentication.

A problem shared is a problem multiplied

As organisations seek to streamline processes by integrating with their suppliers’ systems, this inter-connectivity is leading to an increase in potential attack surfaces that criminals can exploit. In 2017, the NotPetya ransomware which spread via an update to the Ukrainian accounting software M.E.Doc acted as a reminder that supply chain vulnerabilities can be just as devastating as internal weaknesses when breached.

Now in a post-GDPR world, we should see an increased focus on securing supply chains as organisations conduct more in-depth due diligence before engaging with third-parties. Those who ignore the warnings will risk being breached by the weaknesses of a trusted partner, even if their own resilience improves.

Exploit recycling

In 2017, hacker group the Shadow Brokers dumped ‘Lost in Translation’, a set of tools and exploits developed by, and stolen from, the National Security Agency (NSA). The EternalBlue exploit allowed the WannaCry ransomware to infect organisations all over the world just weeks later. While the following month, NotPetya propagated through EternalBlue.

The upward trend in exploit re-use for large-scale attacks is likely to continue, even if we can’t predict whether other, more serious exploits will be leaked or discovered. Regardless, organisations should be ready for previously unknown threats and have threat monitoring in place to help detect suspicious activity, while also being able to respond at scale and speed with remediation activities.

The rise of the smart botnet

By 2020, Gartner predicts that there will be over 20 billion connected ‘things’. Security within the Internet of Things is currently below par and, from experience, we know that many of these ‘things’ are relatively easy to hack. The IoT offers a myriad number of possibilities, but this rapid growth will likely increase the global threat of IoT-based malware and botnets over the next few years and beyond.

The Mirai botnet was a great example of how critical internet components could be attacked
by taking control of millions of vulnerable connected devices around the world. We’re already seeing evidence of similar types of botnet which have evolved beyond the methods of username and password guessing, to more sophisticated methods of compromise.

If more isn’t done to address the vulnerabilities in IoT devices, we will likely see an IoT-based botnet attack take down a larger chunk of the internet in the near future.

So where to invest time and money?

Cyber threats affect all of us, and so companies must remain agile to the changing threat landscape. Since cyber security is not a static issue, organisations need to focus on being able to deal with successful attacks of varying degrees of impact and recover accordingly with minimum disruption.

In the run up to GDPR coming into force, many industries have invested heavily in their cyber defences. We are also seeing the transport, healthcare and retail sectors in particular gain a better understanding of the threats they face and improve their cyber maturity. These are all positive steps.

Globally, there is also a movement towards establishing a joined-up approach with regards to cyber security best practice. In the next few years, staying ahead of the curve with regards to evolving threats will be key to improving cyber resilience across the board.

If you’re attending CEBIT 2018, click here for more information and to book a meeting with Rachel Eyre, Business Development Manager, MIDAS and find out how Manchester, the UK’s emerging cyber security hub, can help you.

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