When it comes to cyber security and overall threats, the landscape is always changing. Hackers and online extortionists are picking up new strategies as quickly as users can protect against them, making it an uphill battle.
However, this doesn't mean there isn't hope. One of the best ways to get out in front of emerging threats is to examine experts' predictions. These can be particularly telling, and can help individual users and enterprises alike improve their protections. By taking a proactive approach, businesses and users can work to prevent infection and attack.
With 2015 coming to a close, now is the time to take a look at predictions for next year. So what will the threat environment look like in 2016, and what can consumers and company users expect? Let's take a look at the attack strategies hackers will seek to leverage in the coming months and how organizations can protect themselves:
The year of online extortion: A focus on the psychological
In its 2016 Security Predictions, Trend Micro forecasts that hackers will place a higher priority on the psychological elements of an attack, causing the more technical components to take a backseat. Trend Micro noted that 2016 will likely be "the year of online extortion," similar to some attacks seen during 2015. In the report, Trend Micro presented the fictional case of a married man receiving news that his inactive account on a dating website was compromised, demonstrating the anxiety hackers are looking to create.
"Attackers will continue to use fear as a major component of the scheme, as it has proven to be effective in the past," Trend Micro pointed out. "[C]yber extortionists will devise new ways to target its victim's psyche to make each attack 'personal' – either for an end user or an enterprise."
This type of event has been seen with ransomware attacks, and most recently, with the Ashley Madison hack. Users are held at the mercy of attackers, who have the upper hand thanks to the personal nature of the breach or infection. Next year, occurrences like this will probably become more common, threatening financial assets as well as users' or businesses' reputations.
IoT threats continue to rise
The IoT has been part of several threat predictions for previous years, as well as 2016. Phoenix TS contributor Ashley Wheeler predicted that next year, vulnerabilities associated with the network of Bluetooth-enabled appliances and other items will only increase, particularly as data collection in this realm continues.
"The Internet of Things is this intriguing monster of fascinating capabilities mixed with massive doses of creepy data collection," Wheeler wrote. "These connected devices are quickly gathering mounds of personal information about our day-to-day lives and it's a gold mine of data for any hacker."
This isn't just true for the consumer market – the IoT will pose a rising threat to enterprises next year as well. Businesses are increasingly looking to use IoT technology, whether to increase operational effectiveness or lower costs. Either way, as IoT solutions continue to infiltrate corporate infrastructures, the related vulnerabilities will likely extend to the business industry as well.
Consumer devices could cause physical harm
Building off Wheeler's predictions, Trend Micro noted that the potential threat posed by consumer devices could even become physical. In recent years, hacks of devices like connected cars, baby monitors and smart TVs have become more common. As smart devices become more popular and are increasingly used by consumers – Business Insider Intelligence forecasted that 2 billion units will be shipped in 2019 – the potential for harm only increases.
"As more drones encroach on public air space for various missions, more devices are used for healthcare-related services, and more home and business appliances rely on an Internet connection to operate, the more likely we will see an incident involving a device malfunction, a hack, or a misuse that will trigger conversation on creating regulations on device production and usage," Trend Micro pointed out.
Mobile threats abound
Mobile malware will continue to be a major threat next year. The mobile platform has becoming a highly valuable target for hackers, especially as they enhance their malware capabilities in this realm.
"While we continue to hold our breath in anticipation of a total mobile meltdown as a result of cyber attack, we warn, yet again, that the vulnerabilities inside mobile devices and the apps they utilize are significant security risks," Wheeler wrote.
Trend Micro predicted that mobile payment methods will be popular targets for hackers across the globe. Not only will cybercriminals likely seek to create hacking strategies around mobile payment capabilities, they will also test these in real-world environments on unsuspecting users in order to improve their malicious activities. Even as the financial sector and other associated industries seek to enhance security of payment technologies – using solutions like EMV and contactless RFID cards, as well as mobile wallets – cybercriminals will challenge these improvements via rising attack attempts.
Chinese mobile malware increases
In addition, Trend Micro highlighted to threat posed by Chinese mobile malware, which is increasing at a surprising rate. Whereas less than 1 percent of apps in the Google Play store are malicious, three in every four Chinese apps contain malware. This is compounded by the fact that there are numerous third-party app stores available for users in China.
"Given this user behavior, there is no stopping the exponential growth of mobile malware at a rate that's projected to reach the 20 million mark by the end of 2016," Trend Micro stated.
As vulnerabilities and emerging attack strategies increase across the board, it's important that users and businesses can protect themselves. Trend Micro's Complete User Protection can help safeguard against emerging threats.