Top security predictions for 2013

WatchGuard Technologies, a global leader in manageable business security solutions, has revealed its annual security predictions for 2013.
Assembled by WatchGuard’s security research analysts, the list reveals an uptick in emerging cyber threats and an increased focus by governments to fight back through legislation. While the security industry is predicted to focus on “strike back” measures, WatchGuard predicts these actions will be ineffective and ultimately unviable for most organisations.

“2012 was an eye-opening year in cyber security as we saw the number of new and more sophisticated vulnerabilities rise, impacting individuals, businesses and governments,” says WatchGuard director of Security Strategy Corey Nachreiner, a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP).

“This is a year where the security stakes reach new heights, attacks become more frequent, and unfortunately, more damaging as many organisations suffer attacks before taking measures to protect themselves from the bad guys.”

WatchGuard’s 2013 security predictions include:
* Cyber-attack results in a human death – WatchGuard hopes it is wrong in this prediction. But with more computing devices embedded in cars, phones, TVs and even medical devices, digitally dealt death is not only possible, it’s plausible. Security is still often an afterthought when developing innovative technical systems.
Criminals, hacktivists, and even nation-states are launching increasingly targeted cyber-attacks, resulting in the destruction of physical equipment. Most recently, a researcher even showed how to wirelessly deliver an 830-volt shock to an insecure pacemaker, proving that digital attacks can have a real-world impact.

* Malware enters matrix through virtual door – last year was the first real-world instance of malware that sought out virtual machines (VMs) and infected them directly. Today, there is an emergence of malicious code that can recognise when it’s running in a virtual system and can act accordingly.
In 2013, WatchGuard predicts attackers will create even more VM-targeted malware. It will be designed to take advantage of weaknesses found in many virtual environments, while attempting to avoid virtualised automatic threat detection systems.

* It’s the browser – not the system – that malware is after – WatchGuard anticipates a steep rise in browser-infecting malware in 2013. With increased adoption of cloud services like online banking, a great deal of personal and sensitive data passes through Web browsers.
Many anti-virus solutions are focused on catching traditional malware, which infects an operating system and aren’t as effective at detecting browser-based infections.
Now, a new type of malware has emerged. Sometimes called a Man-in-the-Browser (MitB) or browser zombie, it arrives as a malicious browser extension, plugin, helper object, or piece of JavaScript. It doesn’t infect the whole system; instead it takes complete control of a browser and runs whenever the victim surfs the Web.

* Strike back gets lot of lip service, but does little good – “strike back”, which refers to launching a counter-offensive against cyber hackers, will receive a lot of attention but won’t be implemented in most organisations, according to WatchGuard.
“Strike backs” can include filing lawsuits, launching cyber espionage campaigns, or even launching counter cyber-attacks against attackers. WatchGuard anticipates most organisations won’t implement these measures given the jurisdictional challenges of digital attacks which bounce through several countries.
Plus, criminals have the ability to plant “false flags” in malware, tricking victims and authorities into thinking someone else is behind the attack.

* Users will pay for our lack of IPv6 expertise – next year, WatchGuard expects to see an increase in IPv6-based attacks and IPv6 attack tools. While the IT industry continues to be slow at adopting IPv6 into their networks, most new devices ship IPv6-aware and can create IPv6 networks on their own.
Many IT professionals don’t have a deep understanding of IPv6’s technicalities, yet they have IPv6 traffic and devices on their networks. This also means most administrators haven’t implemented any IPv6 security controls, opening the door to attackers looking to exploit unprotected weaknesses.

* Android pick pockets try to empty mobile wallets – based on the following three factors, WatchGuard expects to see at least one vulnerability, even if just a proof-of-concept, that allows attackers to steal money from Android devices. Mobile malware is skyrocketing; cybercriminals are targeting Android devices more than any other because of the platform’s openness; and people are increasingly using mobile devices for online payments. Plus, many vendors, including Google, are starting to launch mobile wallets, which attaches credit cards to mobile devices.

* Exploit sold on “vulnerability market” becomes next APT – WatchGuard expects that at least one auctioned-off zero day exploit will emerge as a major targeted attack this year. Vulnerability markets or auctions are a new trend in information security, allowing so-called “security” companies to sell zero day software vulnerabilities to the highest bidder.
While they claim to “vet” their customers and only sell to NATO governments and legitimate companies, there are few safeguards in place to prevent nefarious entities to take advantage.

* Important cyber security-related legislation finally becomes law – in 2013, expect the US government to pass at least one new cyber security Act, which will likely impact private organisations. The US government has been trying to pass cyber security Bills that give the president and various government agencies some control over what happens in the event of cyber-attack on US infrastructure.
The government also wants more co-operation among private infrastructure organisations and US intelligence agencies. Many are pressing for the government to enact more detailed cybercrime laws, which may help prosecute digital crimes. On top of that, some organisations are lobbying for tougher digital IP enforcement, which privacy advocates often oppose.
While 2012 proved to be a difficult year for passing new cyber legislation, WatchGuard expects this year to be different.

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