Cybercrime threats have been around, at least in primitive forms, since about the 1970s just around the time when early commercial LAN (a number of devices connected together is a Local Area Network) technologies were being experimented on and developed. This is also just around the time when the internet was born as the ARPANET -which is sometimes called the grandfather of the internet. The birth of the first 'computer-to-computer' links were to be commensurate with the birth of cybercrime and the appearance of what would later be coined 'cybercriminals'. A good way to compare this with real-life would be that, as soon as trade developed between civilizations so did the emergence of groups of thieves -which is essentially what most cybercriminals are. The first 'worm' (computer virus or malware) was the Morris worm in 1988 that infected the UNIX Noun 1 system at the time and replicated itself, which rendered computers on the network unusable. The creator of the worm, Robert Tapan Morris, was the first person to be legally convicted for cybercrime in the U.S. He had said that he was attempting to measure the size of the internet with this technique. Cybercrime is now running rampant every living second and everywhere in multiple forms, and basic replicating worms have long been replaced by extremely sophisticated attack vectors (more on this later).
The CEO of IBM confirmed the biggest number of all, 'Cybercrime is the greatest threat to every company in the world'. Officially, cybercrime is costing an estimated $6 trillion in damages, every year, not to mention the damage to the human component and that number is going to increase.
In 2021 today, cybercrime and its impacts are increasing. Emerging cybersecurity threats and how to prepare cybersecurity strategies for them are some of the most substantial discussions, not just in IT circles, but in the world economy. Threats are adapting and changing at unprecedented rates while cybersecurity defense teams and regulatory agencies are grappling with the constant pressure of these cyber attacks. According to Gartner's research, the 'top two biggest concerns of corporate boards' are cybersecurity and regulatory compliance. Furthermore, 'With an increase in very public security breaches and increasingly complex security setups, boards are paying more attention to cybersecurity'. Cybersecurity is an enormous issue, supported by the fact that the World Economic Forum (WEF) has said the following in a report 'Cybersecurity, as one of the world's most strategically important issues, has in recent years been assessed as one of the top systemic risks facing business and government leadership by the World Economic Forum'.
Before delving into emergency cybersecurity threats, it is important to define how cybercriminals strategize their attacks through various 'delivery channels'.
Cybercrime Attack Surface
The attack surface of a cybercriminal is self-explanatory in a way, in that it literally defines the surface an attacker (cyber attacker) has available to conduct cybercrime. An attack surface can range from both hardware and software surfaces that are vulnerable to cybercriminal attacks. Attack surfaces can range from any device connected to the internet that is a hardware component (devices), to the digital endpoints (software) in the chain.
Cybercrime Attack Vectors
An attack vector is the method by cybercriminals target a digital or physical device on the attack surface (defined above). A worm or virus as an attack vector, for example. A more in-depth explanation would be that an attack vector can range from the following techniques; phishing, malware, brute force breaches, ransomware, and many more.
Types of Cyber Threats Today
The cyberthreat horizon is quite different today, than it was in the 2010s, let alone earlier when cybercrime was nowhere near its current scope. In 2021, the main distinguishing factor is that the globe is under restrictions. These restrictions have changed the scope of cybersecurity forever because the entire economy depends on remote work and WFH (Work From Home) models of communication and business practices. In a remote society, the scope of the most common cyber threats looks like this;
- Data breaches will be experienced due to employee negligence on personal devices
- Significant worldwide implementation of AI is at risk because of a lack of security strategies
- 5G will worsen threats to industrial control systems
- Nation-state geopolitically motivated APT group attacks are on the rise
- Social engineering attacks like phishing make up 90% of successful cyberattacks, with spear-phishing being even worse
- Ransomware and malware attacks will keep being a problem
What Are The Emerging Cybersecurity Threats?
The remainder of this decade will be marked by the passage to Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, 5G networks, more and more cloud computing reliance, increasing IoT devices, and smart sensor implementation. This list is going to bring infinite headaches for the cybersecurity industry unless extremely rigorous and strict containment policies are implemented in the industry. This decade is going to see more digital transformation, and more and more 'nonhuman entities' are being introduced into the economy which means that managing machine identities is vital to a cybersecurity strategy. Following this, the industry's insistence on 5G, cloud computing and smart sensors is going to require a host of policies and tools as all of this greatly expands the attack surface (which allows for more delivery channels), and will ease how attack vectors can pierce through the system. Undetectable fileless attacks (part of LotL or Living of the Land) that use existing system tools to launch attacks are forecasted to be a danger.
Finally, the Internet-of-Things or IoT industry is only going to keep growing and selling billions of devices that are adding to the global cybersecurity threat landscape. Undefined business practices, insufficient cybersecurity strategies, and especially the lack of specialized employee cybersecurity training are going to be the weak points going forward this decade. Including BAS (Breach and Attack Simulation) scenarios into every business is going to mitigate a lot of problems, as well as PEC (Privacy Enhancing Computation). Optimizing the security of business processes and flows which are now more vulnerable than ever is also a critical cybersecurity duty. Finally, cybersecurity preparation and strategy for the future means understanding that antivirus software, simple file backups, and passwords are not going to cut it anymore in this emerging, constantly evolving threat landscape.
Why is Stopping Cybercrime So Difficult?
There is so much hype surrounding cybercrime, that one may wonder how in the second decade of the 21st century, where humanity is developing Artificial Intelligence systems and even quantum computers, the industry is unable to fight cybercriminals and their methods. Simply put, this is because there aren't enough well-trained cybersecurity personnel as well as because malware is evolving and adapting. Personnel working in threat detection are not able to react quickly enough to the sheer volume of security alerts, coupled with the cybersecurity skills shortage. Let's take what is the worst and most sophisticated cyberattack event in history, the very recent SolarWinds attack last spring, as an example. The CEO of the company said the following: 'Because of the narrow window in which the malware was injected into the code, the ability for our build systems to identify that did not exist. That is one of the key areas of focus that we are working towards', 'This problem exists in every company, so what happened to us can happen to any software developer in the world'.