Security Outlook 2016

by January 12, 2016 0 comments

Shrikant Shitole, Managing Director, India, Symantec.

1.Apple Devices Under Greater Security Threat

Apple devices have experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. According to IDC, the company now accounts for 13.5 per cent of global smartphone shipments and 7.5 per cent of global PC shipments. This increase in usage has not gone unnoticed by attackers. A rising number of threat actors have begun developing specific malware designed to infect devices running Mac OS X or iOS.

Although the number of threats targeting Apple operating systems remains quite low when compared to the company’s main competitors (Windows in the desktop space and Android in mobile), the amount uncovered has grown steadily in recent years. In tandem with this, the level of Apple-related malware infections has spiked, particularly in the past 18 months. For a country like India, which is currently in the middle of a smartphone boom which will get bigger in 2016 as smart mobile devices become more affordable; the situation becomes dire. In fact, India will overtake the US as the second largest market for smartphones in the world by 2016 with 200 million smartphone users owing to this, according to an eMarketer report. In addition to this, advancements in the telecom circles with 4G being rolled out across India in 2016, internet and smartphone penetration will be extremely high in India.

Should Apple’s popularity continue to grow, it seems likely that these trends will continue in 2016. Apple users should not be complacent about security and change their perception that Apple devices are “free from malware”. They need to take precautions in order to prevent their devices from being compromised.

2.The Tipping Point for Biometric Security

The last two years have seen a significant rise in the use of biometrics. This is expected to grow significantly with major industry players implementing new capabilities both with new sensors in devices and with an adoption of biometric authentication frameworks like FIDO and TouchID. This facilitates secure on-device storage of biometric information (like fingerprints) as well as interoperability between apps and systems. What this means is that biometrics can finally answer the “what’s in it for me” question that consumers have been asking, while replacing passwords with strong traditional PKI authentication protected by the biometric sensor. The consumer gets better security with significantly increased convenience for device unlocking, purchasing, and payments. This also is leading to enterprise adoption of biometrics that may start to see a reduction on the dependence on passwords.

3.Need for Improved IoT Devices Security

By 2020 close to 30 billion connected things will be in use across a wide range of industries and the IoT will touch every role across the enterprise. As market leaders emerge and certain ecosystems grow, the attacks against these devices will undoubtedly escalate as we’ve already seen happen with the attacks on the Android platform. The good news is that OS makers are making good strides in enforcing security in the eco-systems they support, such as HomeKit.

In addition, the evolving concept of “care is everywhere” may see medical device security become a mainstream topic in 2016. It’s widely known that life-sustaining devices like pacemakers or insulin pumps can be hacked. Fortunately, to-date, no such case has been reported outside proof-of-concept security research; however, the potential impact remains high. Under the evolving umbrella of mobile health or mHealth, new care delivery models will move devices into the patient’s home. This will place medical devices on public networks, provide medical apps through consumer devices such as smartphones, and interlace personal data with clinical information.

With these changes happening so rapidly, regulation may be forced to catch up with technology in 2016. We may find that some countries or industries will begin to develop guidelines that address the new risks of information use, data ownership, and consent presented by IoT devices.

4.Critical Infra at Higher Risk of Attacks

We have already seen attacks on infrastructure, as stated in the Internet Security Threat Report (Vol. 20) and in 2016 we can expect this to continue to increase. Motivations for critical infrastructure attacks are both political and criminal, with nations and political organisations operating cyber-warfare campaigns, and criminals attacking for ransom.

5.Ransomware Gangs and Malware Distribution Networks Will Clash

Ransomware infections are overt and obvious while most other malware infections are covert and discreet. The presence of ransomware on a computer will usually prompt the computer owner to clean the machine thoroughly, removing any malware from it. As the ransomware may have been installed by a separate piece of malware, that other malware will also be removed, cutting into the malware operator’s business model.

According to ISTR 20, in 2014, ransomware rose globally by 113 per cent last year. India reported the third highest ransomware in Asia, with an average of more than seven attacks every hour. The repercussions were severe for enterprises of all sizes.

In 2016, more malware distribution networks may soon refuse to distribute such obvious malware, forcing the ransomware gangs to develop their own distribution methods (like Trojan.Ransomlock.G and Trojan.Ransomlock.P have already done).

As awareness of these scams increases, the attackers, and their malware is likely to evolve and use more sophisticated techniques to evade detection and prevent removal. The “ransom letter” will likely also evolve and the attackers will use different hooks to defraud innocent users

6.The Need for Encryption Escalates

Encrypt everywhere is quickly becoming the mantra of the technology industry. With so much communication and interaction between people and systems happening over insecure and vulnerable networks like the Internet, strong encryption for this data in transit has been well recognised for some time and it is generally implemented.

Unfortunately, many new devices and applications have had poor implementations, leading to vulnerabilities that allow focused attackers to gain access to communications. For example, the mobile device has become the center of most peoples’ lives for communications, data storage, and general technology interaction. This presents a high-value target for cybercriminals, who are looking to exploit this.

7.Growing Need for Cyber Insurance

When we look at the rapid adoption of cyber insurance, there are two key factors that attribute to this growth: new regulations which obligate companies to respond to information breaches; and the increase of cyber criminals using stolen information for payment fraud, identity theft, and other crimes.

Cyber-attacks and data breaches cause reputational harm and business interruptions, but most of all—they are expensive. Relying on IT defenses alone can create a false sense of security; however, no organisation is immune from risk. In 2016, many companies will turn to cyber insurance as another layer of protection, particularly as cyber-attacks start mirroring physical world attacks.

Cyber insurance offers organisations protection to limit their risk, but companies should consider all coverage options carefully. It’s not about checking off a box; it’s about finding a policy that protects an organisation’s brand, reputation, and operations if faced with a breach.

8.Security Awareness Through Gamification

Internet security relies on the human element as much as it does on technology. If people were more skillful, they could help reduce the risks they faced. This is as true of consumers avoiding scams as it is of government employees avoiding the social engineering in targeted attacks.

In this context, security gamification will be used to turn “the desires of the moment” into lasting changes of behavior by using the psychological rewards and instant gratification of simple computer games. Security Gamification could be used, for example, to train consumers to be wary of phishing emails or to generate, remember, and use strong passwords. Companies will also invest more in preparing for security breaches and understanding their defenses better by using simulations and security “war games.” By extending conventional penetration testing into a simulated response and remediation phase, companies can train their employees and improve their readiness. This message is not lost on governments. In January 2015, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to carry out “war game” cyber-attacks on each other. Companies could follow their example in 2016.


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