Cybersecurity and the threat landscape: What 2018 has in store for organisations

Phil Muncaster

Friday 12 January 2018

The past 12 months have been a roller coaster for EMEA organisations faced with mounting cybersecurity and data protection challenges. But things won’t get any easier in 2018 as threats continue to evolve and new compliance requirements from the European Commission come into force.

IT and business leaders have never been more aware of the cybersecurity challenges they face. Recent revelations of major breaches at organisations who should know better include Equifax (145.5 million US consumers), Yahoo (3 billion accounts) and even cyber-savvy Deloitte. We’ve seen leaks of US government exploits stockpiled by the CIA and NSA add to the chaos, with some of these tools being utilised in major global ransomware attacks such as WannaCry and NotPetya. We’ve also seen major new vulnerabilities disclosed, affecting wireless networks, encryption protocols and IoT devices.

Many of these trends have borne out predictions from the beginning of the year. Cloud environments for one are still very much in the crosshairs of the attackers as we head into 2018.

So what can we predict for the next 12 months in cybersecurity?

Compliance challenges mount

May will be a hugely significant month from a compliance perspective, as two major new pieces of legislation from the EU come into force. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) applies to all organisations that process data on EU citizens, while the NIS Directive applies to providers of “essential services”, which will vary by EU member state. Both mandate best practice security controls and levy strict penalties of up to 4 per cent of global annual turnover or €20m (whichever is higher) for non-compliance. The GDPR comes into force on 25 May while the deadline for NIS to be transposed into national law is 9 May.

Analyst Forrester has warned organisations keen to prevent insider-related breaches to ensure they respect the privacy of their employees, who are also covered by the GDPR. It predicts that 2018 could even see the first lawsuits filed by staff who have seen their employer go too far with user monitoring.

AI: For good and bad

According to IDC: “By 2018, 70 per cent of enterprise cybersecurity environments will use cognitive/AI technologies to assist humans in dealing with the vastly increasing scale and complexity of cyber threats.” Next year is likely to see more and more vendors offering some kind of machine learning/AI element to help find the needle in the haystack when it comes to threats. In doing so, it will help take the pressure off IT departments, which will continue to be stretched to the limit by skills shortages. It’s predicted that the global shortfall in IT security pros will reach 1.8 million by 2020.

However, AI will also create significant challenges for society, according to Gartner. The analyst claimed in its predictions for 2018 and beyond: “By 2020, AI-driven creation of ‘counterfeit reality’, or fake content, will outpace AI’s ability to detect it, fomenting digital distrust.”

IoT headaches continue

The Internet of Things will continue to embed itself into all parts of our lives and business processes – Gartner predicts it will be in 95 per cent of new electronics by 2020. But it also warns that half of all security budgets for IoT will be spent on “fault remediation, recalls and safety failures” rather than protection. Considering security as an essential design requirement rather than an afterthought could save organisations time and money.

Ransomware evolves

Ransomware was once again the nemesis of many an unprepared organisation in 2017. Next year it will be no different, with those failing to get the security basics right – like patching known vulnerabilities – likely to succumb. There could be an even bigger sting in the tail for firms in 2018, however, as cybercriminals look to drive profits by aiming ransomware at mission-critical systems like POS.

Forrester predicts this could be a major trend that has the potential to devastate retailers and hospitality firms if they don’t prepare now.

Blockchain becomes relevant

Blockchain has been on the scene for some time, but usually gets mentioned in terms of financial services and as the foundational layer for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. However, its application in a cybersecurity context could start attracting attention in 2018.

Dimension Data believes the distributed ledger technology could enhance identity and access management efforts, detecting and isolating suspicious behaviour in a fully transparent manner, which will also help forensic investigators.

The truth is that cybercriminals rarely work to annual schedules, so we’ll likely see an evolution of current threats and cyber defences alike going into 2018, rather than anything completely new. But as always, the organisations best prepared will get the basics right, founded on the three pillars of people, process and technology. A good place to start is the National Cyber Security Centre’s 10 Steps to Cyber Security document.

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