The WatchGuard Threat Lab’s 2019 Security Predictions

1. Fileless, Self-Propagating “Vaporworms” Attack. Fileless malware strains will exhibit wormlike properties in 2019, allowing them to self-propagate by exploiting software vulnerabilities. Fileless malware is more difficult for traditional endpoint detection to identify and block because it runs entirely in memory, without ever dropping a file onto the infected system. Combine that trend with the number of systems running unpatched software vulnerable to certain exploits, and 2019 will be the year of the vaporworm.

2. Attackers Hold the Internet Hostage. A hacktivist collective or nation-state will launch a coordinated attack against the infrastructure of the internet in 2019. The protocol that controls the internet (BGP) operates largely on the honor system, and a 2016 DDoS attack against hosting provider Dyn showed that a single attack against a hosting provider or registrar could take down major websites. The bottom line? The internet itself is ripe for the taking by someone with the resources to DDoS multiple critical points underpinning the internet or abuse the underlying protocols themselves.

3. Escalations in State-level Cyber Attacks Force a UN Cyber Security Treaty. The UN will more forcefully tackle the issue of state-sponsored cyber attacks by enacting a multinational Cyber Security Treaty in 2019. There are many examples of alleged and confirmed cyber attacks launched by nation-states. The growing number of civilian victims impacted by these attacks will cause the UN to more aggressively pursue a multinational cyber security treaty that establishes rules of engagement and impactful consequences around nation-state cyber campaigns.

4. AI-Driven Chatbots Go Rogue. In 2019, cyber criminals and black hat hackers will create malicious chatbots on legitimate sites to socially engineer unknowing victims into clicking malicious links, downloading files containing malware, or sharing private information.

5. Biometrics as Single-Factor Authentication Fails. As biometric logins like Apple’s FaceID become more common, hackers will take advantage of the false sense of security they encourage and crack a biometric-only login method at scale to pull off a major attack. As a result, 2019 will see strong growth in the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA) for added protection among groups with more security knowledge, particularly push-based authentication and MFA for Cloud application defense.

6. A Nation-State Launches a “Fire Sale” Attack. In the Die Hard movie series, a “fire sale” was a fictional three-pronged cyber-attack, targeting a city or state’s transportation operations, financial systems, public utilities and communication infrastructure. The fear and confusion caused during this attack was designed to allow the terrorists to siphon off huge sums of money undetected. Modern cyber security incidents suggest that nation-states and terrorists have developed these capabilities, so 2019 may be the first year one of these multi-pronged attacks is launched to cover up a hidden operation.

7. Utilities and Industrial Control Systems Targeted with Ransomware Targeted ransomware campaigns will cause chaos in 2019 by targeting industrial control systems and public utilities for larger payoffs. The average payment demand will increase by over 6500 percent, from an average of $300 to $20,000 per attack. These assaults will result in real-world consequences like city-wide blackouts and the loss of access to public utilities.

8. WPA3 Circumvented by a Layer 2 Threat Vector. Hackers will use rogue APs, Evil Twin APs, or any of the six known Wi-Fi threat categories (as defined by the Trusted Wireless Environment Framework) to compromise a WPA3 Wi-Fi network in 2019, despite enhancements to the new WPA3 encryption standard. Unless more comprehensive security is built into the Wi-Fi infrastructure across the entire industry, users can be fooled into feeling safe with WPA3 while still being susceptible to attacks like Evil Twin APs.

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