Stranger Danger

By on Jan 22, 2017 in Technology

In many ways, 2016 will be known as the year of the hack. Between Russian Hackers, DDoS attacks bringing down the eastern seaboard, or the littlshutterstock_551992834e matter of over a billion compromised Yahoo! Accounts, last year marked the moment “cyber” security went mainstream. While there’s no doubt more of the same is on the way, Wired has put on its prognostication cap to ponder what new security threats will emerge over the next 12 months. After all, as they say, forewarned is forearmed.

“It’s hard to know for certain what lies ahead, but some themes began to present themselves toward the end of 2016 that will almost certainly continue well into next year,” begins Wired.

“…the more we can anticipate them, the better we can prepare.”

Dawn of the Drones

Military drones have been fighting proxy battles across the globe for quite some time now, but private, commercial drones could soon turn deadly. Though they’re smaller than their battle-worn counterparts, commercial drones have existed in an unregulated, wild west-type no-man’s-land. Though the FCC currently requires drone owners to register their devices, internationally, there’s little oversight. Wired reports small drones have already been used for terrorist activities and guerrilla warfare, including an attack on US-allied Kurdish soldiers in October of last year.

“What better way to deliver deadly ordnance across enemy lines or into secure zones of cities than with remote-controlled accuracy and off-the-shelf hardware that offers no easy way to trace the perpetrator,” Wired asks.

“The US government is already buying drone-jamming hardware. But as with all IEDs, the arms race between flying consumer grade bombs and the defenses against them will likely be a violent game of cat-and-mouse.

iPhone goes to Court

Wired predicts the conflict between federal authorities and mobile-phone providers, which hit an apex with the iPhone 5c-encryption standoff in 2016, will only intensify in the coming year. While Apple has remained steadfast in its commitment to protecting the privacy of its customers, the FBI has already begun to lay groundwork for a new day in court.

“It’s only a matter of time until the FBI or other cops make another legal demand that an encryption-maker assist in cracking its protections for users,” warns Wired. “Sooner or later, expect another crypto clash.”

From Russia with Love

From the moment the election results began pouring in, suspicions of a possible election hack began to focus on the country’s old Cold War nemesis. Many government agencies, from the Department of Homeland Security to the CIA and FBI, have expressed concern over the Kremlin’s apparent attempt to intercede and influence the US presidential election. For Wired, even apparent success could be enough to spur attacks that are more significant in the future – including the nation’s vulnerable infrastructure.

“The apparent success of Russia’s efforts…will only embolden Russia’s digital intruders to try new targets and techniques,” writes Wired. “Expect them to replicate their influence operations ahead of elections next year in Germany, the Netherlands, and France, and potentially to even try new tricks like data sabotage or attacks on physical infrastructure.”

Rolling Blackouts

Used by both state-sponsored agents and lone-wolf hackers, DDoS attacks use the inherent vulnerabilities in a disparate, often unregulated and sparsely protected internet. Back in October of last year, an army of botnets capitalized on the lack of IoT security to launch a series of attacks that brought down internet service for almost half of the country. With the list of smart devices growing every day, the number of entry points for hackers is expanding exponentially, and with each new target comes a new opportunity.

“And it’s not just internet connectivity itself,” explains Wired. “The versatility of DDoS attacks is precisely what makes them so dangerous. In 2017, they’ll be more prevalent than ever.

Billion-dollar Ransom

Recently, both the Ponemon Institute and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse have identified health care data particularly susceptible to cyber-attacks, and the list of potential targets will only grow in the coming year. Hospitals and other healthcare providers are an alluring target for hackers in part because they maintain databases full of valuable personal information on patients (and staff). Expect those attacks to intensify over the next 12 months.

“More innovation, plus more disruption, will come in 2017,” warns Wired. “Ransomware attacks on financial firms have already been rising, and attackers may be emboldened to take on large banks and central financial institutions.

“In other words, ransomware attacks are going to get bigger in every possible sense of the word.”