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McAfee Labs Releases Its Threats Predictions for 2020

By: DT News Network
December, 07, 2019

“With 2019’s headlines of ransomware, malware, and RDP attacks almost behind us, we shift our focus to the cybercrime threats ahead. Cybercriminals are increasing the complexity and volume of their attacks and campaigns, always looking for ways to stay one step ahead of cybersecurity practices – and more often using the world’s evolving technology against us.  

Continuing advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning have led to invaluable technological gains, but threat actors are also learning to leverage AI and ML in increasingly sinister ways. AI technology has extended the capabilities of producing convincing deepfake video to a less-skilled class of threat actor attempting to manipulate individual and public opinion. AI-driven facial recognition, a growing security asset, is also being used to produce deepfake media capable of fooling humans and machines. 

Our researchers also foresee more threat actors targeting corporate networks to exfiltrate corporate information in two-stage ransomware campaigns.  

With more and more enterprises adopting cloud services to accelerate their business and promote collaboration, the need for cloud security is greater than ever. As a result, the number of organizations prioritizing the adoption container technologies will likely continue to increase in 2020. Which products will they rely on to help reduce container-related risk and accelerate DevSecOps?

The increased adoption of robotic process automation and the growing importance to secure system accounts used for automation raises security concerns tied to Application Programming Interface (API) and their wealth of personal data. 

The threatscape of 2020 and beyond promises to be interesting for the cybersecurity community.” 

- Raj Samani, Chief Scientist and McAfee Fellow, Advanced Threat Research 

Predictions - 

  1. Broader Deepfakes Capabilities for Less-Skilled Threat Actors 
  2. Adversaries to Generate Deepfakes to Bypass Facial Recognition
  3. Ransomware Attacks to Morph into Two-Stage Extortion Campaigns
  4. Application Programming Interfaces (API) Will be Exposed as The Weakest Link Leading to Cloud-Native Threats
  5. DevSecOps Will Rise to Prominence as Growth in Containerized Workloads Causes Security Controls to ‘Shift Left’ 

Broader Deepfakes Capabilities for Less-skilled Threat Actors  

Deepfake video or text can be weaponized to enhance information warfare. Freely available video of public comments can be used to train a machine-learning model that can develop of deepfake video depicting one person’s words coming out of another’s mouth. Attackers can now create automated, targeted content to increase the probability that an individual or groups fall for a campaign. In this way, AI and machine learning can be combined to create massive chaos. 

In general, adversaries are going to use the best technology to accomplish their goals, so if we think about nation-state actors attempting to manipulate an election, using deepfake video to manipulate an audience makes a lot of sense. Adversaries will try to create wedges and divides in society. Or if a cybercriminal can have a CEO make what appears to be a compelling statement that a company missed earnings or that there’s a fatal flaw in a product that’s going to require a massive recall. Such a video can be distributed to manipulate a stock price or enable other financial crimes 

We predict the ability of an untrained class to create deepfakes will enhance an increase in quantity of misinformation. 

Adversaries to Generate Deepfakes to Bypass Facial Recognition  

One of the most prevalent enhancements to facial recognition is the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI). A recent manifestation of this is deepfakes, an AI-driven technique producing extremely realistic text, images, and videos that are difficult for humans to discern real from fake. Primarily used for the spread of misinformation, the technology leverages capabilities. Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs), a recent analytic technology, that on the downside, can create fake but incredibly realistic images, text, and videos. Enhanced computers can rapidly process numerous biometrics of a face, and mathematically build or classify human features, among many other applications. While the technical benefits are impressive, underlying flaws inherent in all types of models represent a rapidly growing threat, which cyber criminals will look to exploit. 

As technologies are adopted over the coming years, a very viable threat vector will emerge, and we predict adversaries will begin to generate deepfakes to bypass facial recognition. It will be critical for businesses to understand the security risks presented by facial recognition and other biometric systems and invest in educating themselves of the risks as well as hardening critical systems.

Ransomware Attacks to Morph into Two-Stage Extortion Campaigns 

Based on what McAfee Advanced Threat Research (ATR) is seeing in the underground, we expect criminals to exploit their extortion victims even more moving forward. The rise of targeted ransomware created a growing demand for compromised corporate networks. This demand is met by criminals who specialize in penetrating corporate networks and sell complete network access in one-go. 

For 2020, we predict the targeted penetration of corporate networks will continue to grow and ultimately give way to two-stage extortion attacks. In the first stage cybercriminals will deliver a crippling ransomware attack, extorting victims to get their files back. In the second stage criminals will target the recovering ransomware victims again with an extortion attack, but this time they will threaten to disclose the sensitive data stolen before the ransomware attack.  

DevSecOps Will Rise to Prominence as Growth in Containerized Workloads Causes Security Controls to ‘Shift Left’  

Container-based cloud deployments are growing in popularity due to the ease with which DevOps teams can continuously roll out micro-services and interacting, reusable components as applications. As a result, the number of organizations prioritizing the adoption of container technologies will continue to increase in 2020.  

Additionally, threats to containerized applications are introduced not only by IaC misconfigurations or application vulnerabilities, but also abused network privileges which allow lateral movement in an attack. To address these run-time threats, organizations are increasingly turning to cloud-native security tools developed specifically for container environments. Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASB) are used to conduct configuration and vulnerability scanning, while Cloud Workload Protection Platforms (CWPP) work as traffic enforcers for network micro-segmentation based on the identity of the application, regardless of its IP. This approach to application identity-based enforcement will push organizations away from the five-tuple approach to network security which is increasingly irrelevant in the context of ephemeral container deployments.  

Application Programming Interfaces (API) Will Be Exposed as The Weakest Link Leading to Cloud-Native Threats

Threat actors are following the growing number of organizations using API-enabled apps because APIs continue to be an easy – and vulnerable – means to access a treasure trove of sensitive data. Despite the fallout of large-scale breaches and ongoing threats, APIs often still reside outside of the application security infrastructure and are ignored by security processes and teams. Vulnerabilities will continue to include broken authorization and authentication functions, excessive data exposure, and a failure to focus on rate limiting and resource limiting attacks. Insecure consumption-based APIs without strict rate limits are among the most vulnerable.

Headlines reporting API-based breaches will continue into 2020, affecting high-profile apps in social media, peer-to-peer, messaging, financial processes, and others, adding to the hundreds of millions of transactions and user profiles that have been scraped in the past two years. The increasing need and hurried pace of organizations adopting APIs for their applications in 2020 will expose API security as the weakest link leading to cloud-native threats, putting user privacy and data at risk until security strategies mature.

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