As to be expected, the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud will play heavily in 2016, with new malicious tactics and strategies set to create unique challenges for vendors and organisations alike.
In forecasting the most important trends of the next twelve months, security specialist firm Fortinet predicts the emergence of increasingly sophisticated evasion techniques that will push the boundaries of detection and forensic investigation as hackers face increasing pressure from law enforcement.
“We can see that the security landscape is changing to accommodate for more sophisticated threats and that a ‘tighter’ integration is required for security solutions,” says Jack Chan, Network and Security Strategist, Fortinet New Zealand.
“The wider adoption of the cloud blurs the traditional perimeter which means that security vendors need to be flexible and agile in their offerings.
“While IoT brings immeasurable benefits to our daily lives, it also raises people’s awareness around security.
“Both consumers and business need to work with security vendors/partners they can trust to provide adequate security and make technology ‘worry free’.”
Looking ahead, Chan believes the top cybersecurity trends for 2016 include:
Increased M2M attacks and propagation between devices
Several troublesome proofs of concept made headlines in 2015 demonstrating the vulnerability of IoT devices.
In 2016, though, Chan expects to see further development of exploits and malware that target trusted communication protocols between these devices.
“Researchers anticipate that IoT will become central to “land and expand” attacks in which hackers will take advantage of vulnerabilities in connected consumer devices to get a foothold within the corporate networks and hardware to which they connect,” he adds.
Worms and viruses designed to specifically attack IoT devices
While worms and viruses have been costly and damaging in the past, Chan believes the potential for harm when they can propagate among millions or billions of devices from wearables to medical hardware is orders of magnitude greater.
“Researchers and others have already demonstrated that it is possible to infect headless devices with small amounts of code that can propagate and persist,” Chan adds.
“Worms and viruses that can propagate from device to device are definitely on the radar.”
Attacks on cloud and virtualised infrastructure
The Venom vulnerability that surfaced this year gave a hint about the potential for malware to escape from a hypervisor and access the host operating system in a virtualised environment.
For Chan, growing reliance on virtualisation and both private and hybrid clouds will make these kinds of attacks even more fruitful for cybercriminals.
“At the same time, because so many apps access cloud-based systems, mobile devices running compromised apps can potentially provide a vector for remotely attacking public and private clouds and corporate networks to which they are connected,” he adds.
New techniques that thwart forensic investigations and hide evidence of attacks
Rombertik garnered significant attention in 2015 as one of the first major pieces of “blastware” in the wild.
But while blastware is designed to destroy or disable a system when it is detected, Chan says “ghostware” is designed to erase the indicators of compromise that many security systems are designed to detect.
‘Thus, it can be very difficult for organisations to track the extent of data loss associated with an attack,” he adds.
Malware that can evade even advanced sandboxing technologies
Many organisations have turned to sandboxing to detect hidden or unknown malware by observing the behaviour of suspicious files at runtime.
“Two-faced malware, though, behaves normally while under inspection and then delivers a malicious payload once it has been passed by the sandbox,” Chan adds.
“This can prove quite challenging to detect but can also interfere with threat intelligence mechanisms that rely on sandbox rating systems.”
For Chan, each of these trends represents a “significant and novel challenge” for both organisations deploying security solutions and for vendors developing them.