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17 January 2022

Cyber Security 2022 Threat Forecast

Year-on-year, attack, breach and incident rates have continued to rise by 15% within the cyber world. In addition, PurpleSec reported that cyber crime is up 600% as a result of the COVID-19 fallout. As remote working left us more vulnerable to attack, hackers thrived off increased opportunities to strike. Going into 2022, we can expect cyber criminals to get smarter, more advanced and more efficient in finding ways to harvest our data, with attack rates likely to rise.

As 68% of business leaders feel their cyber security risks are increasing, this must be counteracted by recognising the benefits of investing in effective cyber security solutions to safeguard data, assets and systems this new year. To mitigate risk, we must be proactive.

Rising cyber threats in 2022

Cyber security risk management has become a prominent topic for board discussion in recent years, with many C-Suite executives now deeming it a top business priority. And it makes sense, following an escalation of malicious cyber incidents experienced last year, many of which were fueled by increased internet use during the pandemic. As 2021 was deemed the year of ransomware, following rampant attacks on organisations like Kaseya and Colonial Pipeline, the severity of cyber crime left board members realising the significance of investing in effective, ongoing security solutions. To understand what to look out for, let’s dive deeper into the rising cyber threats, trends and predictions for 2022.

Social engineering via social media

While we’re used to sharing personal information online, access to technology is becoming more widely available, as is the use of social media platforms. However this material can be taken advantage of once it’s out in the open. A harmless celebratory new job post to our close network can very easily transform into intelligent information for criminals to exploit, putting ourselves and business data at risk. Social media has become a treasure trove of easily-accessible information for online criminals to revel in; exploitation is simplified when social engineering manipulation comes into play.

So, what is social engineering? It is when a hacker plays on human interaction by using malicious activities to psychologically manipulate us into giving away sensitive information, compromise security, or transfer money. The emotional responses triggered can easily convince us to release private information to the aggravator. In addition, Chetan Conikee, CTO at ShiftLeftshares, comments on the disturbing AI advancements to social engineering methods, “Deepfake is a recently developed mechanism to create fake videos or audios, especially to create riots or to spread wrong information. Hackers use AI-based technology to create counterfeit videos by swapping people’s faces and modifying their speech.”

In September 2021, scammers posted a deepfake video featuring Oleg Tinkov, founder of Tinkoff Bank in Russia, calling on people to use the bank’s investment tools, promising to give every client 50% of the amount of investment as a bonus. Once the link was clicked, users were led to a fake website claiming to be the bank which requested personal information to be shared to receive the offer, leaving sensitive data in the hands of exploiting criminals.

Where the majority of cyber attacks are reliant on social engineering, we need to have a clear understanding of how to avoid these tactics for a breach to eliminate the risk, with phishing the most common form of attack. Remember, social engineering only succeeds when users respond with an action. If the request is ignored, we’ll be able to detonate the bomb-like attack. So, to stay safe, we need to think before we act.

Ransomware attacks through phishing

As cyber hack methods adapt and grow, some approaches have remained just as powerfully damaging, with the new year predicting a particular increase in ransomware attacks through its most common form, phishing. Ransomware attacks involve the encryption of malware onto systems, networks and devices to hold a victim’s information at ransom and deny access to critical files. Victims are threatened with demands for money in exchange for access, which is where phishing comes into play. React to the information and you’ll be caught in the crossfire of a smart phishing attack.

The National Cyber Security Centre reported three times as many ransomware attacks in Q1 2021 as there were in 2019 entirely. With research by PwC suggesting that 61% of technology executives expect this to increase in 2022, the attack method is becoming highly intelligent and lucrative. As an increasingly popular method of attack, organisations need to educate staff on how to implement good cyber hygiene (both at home and in the office) and adopt solid security plans to include effective prevention tactics to remove the threat entirely.

Internet of things (IoT) vulnerabilities

Technology intelligence across the globe is advancing every second, resulting in a demand for the newest gadget for both personal use and business development. So, as device ownership rockets, so does the number of internet-connected tools. Ericsson expressed that the rate of connected devices (IoT) is estimated to reach 18 billion by 2022. But, like anything, of course, it comes with risk. Cyber criminals are being granted easy opportunities to attack with increased device access points to secure digital systems.

For individuals, this could include an increased risk on household appliances as access to IoT is widespread across varied technologies. Whilst for organisations, attacks are widespread across industries, targeting the infrastructure of warehouses, farming, manufacturing and office based-businesses. IoT vulnerabilities are the root cause for many privacy breaches, resulting in huge legislative penalties for violation of industry-standard regulations, such as GDPR. Many devices are left vulnerable as they lack the necessary built-in security controls to combat attacks. These limited functions indicate a need to seek advanced protection methods with the help of cyber security providers who can safeguard our critical data and important assets.

Though hard to avoid with rapid usage rates, we can improve our experience with devices, technologies and mechanical inventory, and decrease the risk of attack, by using them safely and performing updates when necessary. It’s time to keep the villains astray.

Supply chain cyber security risks

Pre-pandemic, it’s likely that cyber security supply chains were an afterthought for organisations, with key stakeholders defined, relationships well-managed and processes running smoothly. But come 2020/2021, the impact of COVID-19 began to take its toll and production was hit hard by widespread delays and shortages affecting normal business operation. And this was no different for the digital world, as cyber supply chain problems became a critical issue at the heart of many business deliberations.

Cyber supply chains consist of a collection of technology resources, including cloud-based systems and internal on-site storage, software and hardware and methods of distribution. As cyber supply chains work within a digital landscape, points of attack are easily identifiable by preying criminals. Weakened links can generate greater chances of attack, where somewhere along the line vulnerabilities can turn to opportunities for criminals to exploit. By targeting just one key player in the operation, by infiltrating key systems and deploying ransomware attacks, criminals can bring the whole supply chain to an abrupt halt. This highlights the critical need for stakeholders to ensure security processes (like constant monitoring and risk analysis) are embedded in the early stages of cyber strategy, to avoid compromising business operations further down the line.

Such attacks have escalated by 650% since mid-2020, due to the infiltration of open source software, according to a Sonatype study. And the devastating fallouts were brought to light following an attack on SolarWinds at the peak of the pandemic in 2020, where a compromise of software resulted in Russian intelligence gaining access to the data of 18,000 SolarWinds customers. A year on, the attack has forced organisations to gain a better grasp of the need for clarity and understanding into the origin and integrity of software. But all hope is not lost, as in November 2021, the UK Government released a policy paper seeking feedback from organisations who currently manage supply chain cyber security risk, providing an outline on how additional government support would help to overcome such challenges.

API in cloud computing

As we experience a rise in malicious activity, security leaders will need to work in alliance with their development teams to monitor API behaviour and regulate what data is being accessed by the API, and by whom. But what is ‘API’ and how can it jeopardise our cyber security? API, short for Application Programming Interface, defines the protocols for building and integrating computing software. They work by allowing your digital systems to communicate and connect with other computing products and services, so everything is in sync and can run efficiently. And as long as cloud and on-site applications continue to use public (easily accessible) APIs, we’ll continue to see a rise in scraping and bot attacks on applications.

According to Salt Security’s State of API Security for Q3 2021 research, 91% of respondents experienced an API security incident last year, where vulnerabilities (54%) and authentication issues (46%) topped the list, followed by bot/scraping (20%) and DoS attacks (19%). Though, this data provides insights for attacks on standard computer-to-computer API’s, not cloud-based systems, in which the risk of a breach is even higher.

So, how can we try to tackle the rising issue? Before going live with cloud-based API’s, organisations should implement penetration testing to ensure all vulnerabilities affecting them are detected and eliminated. Businesses will need to invest in better security prevention technologies that can address bot protection, API and application security, and data leak prevention. Plus, analysis of entitlements, through identity and access management, will prove a key tactic in making sure criminals are not wrongly given access to critical data.

According to Prakash Sinha, Technology Evangelist and Senior Director of Corporate Marketing at Radware, we should expect to see bigger investments in more advanced visibility tools in 2022, as well as forensics tools that provide actionable insight for management, monitoring, auditing, compliance, and troubleshooting.

Cyber attack prevention methods

As cyber security trends for 2022 predict increased threats, businesses need to arm themselves with the necessary technologies and solutions to detect, manage and implement security tactics to avoid falling victim to attack. Whilst there are many ways we can work towards creating a safer 2022, it’s not a one-stop-solution kind of approach. For complete protection, you’ll need to adopt a combination of the following within your cyber security strategy for this year.

  • Always assume the worst, so you will always be ready to counteract an attack. If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail.
  • Use cyber technologies to monitor systems to detect vulnerabilities before it’s too late, and get these fixed!
  • Take caution with suspicious communication. Think before you click links, download attachments or share personal information. Consider whether the source is trustworthy.
  • Create safety strategies and social media policies to educate employees on how to stay safe online. Outline avoidance tactics and indicators for an attack.
  • Employ email filtering by setting spam filters to high so malicious messages do not reach your inbox.
  • Update systems, applications and devices to patch vulnerabilities.
  • Adopt identity and access management processes for systems that contain sensitive company data, by applying methods like Multi-Factor Authentication to restrict unwarranted access.
  • Backup files regularly to avoid mass data loss in the instance of attack.
  • Complete audits on IoT devices to ensure company-approved programs and systems are being used.
  • Implement Artificial Intelligence (AI) machine learning across systems to identify patterns of behaviour and detect future risks.

To stay protected this new year, find out more about how our expert cyber solutions and strategies at Infosec K2K can mitigate the risk of attack to help your business stay on top of ever-growing threats.

Get in touch with us to find out more about how we can help you.

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