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IoT, cryptocurrency, Linux & WiFi hacks: WatchGuard's security predictions for 2018

By Sara Barker
Thu 7 Dec 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

2017 has become known as the year of mega-ransomware such as WannaCry, but what lies ahead for 2018? Advanced network security solutions provider WatchGuard Technologies has whipped up some key IT security predictions ranging from IoT botnets to Linux attacks.

"Ultimately, the only way in which consumers and businesses will be able to stay one step ahead is to maintain comprehensive visibility and automated mitigation capabilities across their network,” comments WatchGuard Technologies VP of sales for APJ, Sylvain Lejeune.

“We would expect the year ahead to herald an environment where people, processes and technologies are combined to ensure businesses take every measure possible to protect their enterprise from threats before they are attacked.”

IoT Botnets Will Force Governments to Regulate IoT Device Manufacturers Attackers have already started improving on the Mirai source code, which will mean larger and stronger botnets in 2018. For example, the Reaper botnet actively exploits common vulnerabilities in IoT devices to gain access to the devices instead of relying on a hard-coded credential list.

Be on the watch for a major IoT botnet attack in 2018 that finally causes governments to address IoT security.   Potential IoT device regulations will most likely affect manufacturers of consumer-grade IoT devices first, since the end users of these products don’t have the knowledge to secure their own devices.

These regulations will likely mirror similar liability-oriented regulations in other industries, where the manufacturer is held at least partially accountable for flaws in their products.

A Major Vulnerability Will Topple the Value of a Popular Cryptocurrency Ethereum, Litecoin and Monero all maintain total market capital over $1 billion. Each new cryptocurrency brings new innovations to their respective blockchains. Ethereum’s blockchain for example, acts as a fully decentralized computer capable of running applications. However, these additional blockchain features introduce additional security considerations.   As the value of these cryptocurrencies grows, they will become much more appealing targets for cyber criminals looking to make millions. We predict that hackers will find a vulnerability severe enough to completely wipe out a popular cryptocurrency by destroying public confidence in its security.

Expect Linux-targeted Attacks to Double in 2018 Thanks to IoT The growth of Linux attacks—largely targeting Linux-based IoT devices—was a recurring trend in many of WatchGuard’s 2017 quarterly reports. For instance, Linux malware represented 36 percent of the top malware in Q1 2017.

While IoT devices are technically diverse, a large percentage of them are inexpensive, with embedded Linux systems and released with highly insecure defaults. We expect attackers to continue to take advantage of these insecure devices to fuel their botnets. Based on our threat research and major trends within the IoT space, we expect Linux-specific attacks to double in 2018. 

Thanks to Commoditisation of Wireless Attack Tools, Wi-Fi Hacking Will Move to Zigbee, Bluetooth, Sigfox and More The commoditisation of attack tools with simple user interfaces such as the Wi-Fi Pineapple by Hack5 made it possible for curious amateurs to perform advanced Wi-Fi attacks.   The same trends that spurred the expansion of Wi-Fi hacking are now beginning to impact criminal activities involving other wireless standards. These trends are possible due to the affordability and availability of software define radios (SDR), a RF technology that allows a device to talk and listen to a very broad range of wireless frequencies.

SDR-based attack tools have already been introduced to the market, namely the HackRF One by Great Scott Gadgets and the community of YouTube videos is growing quickly with “how to” topics ranging from unlocking luxury car doors to spoofing GPS signals.     At the same time, demand for wirelessly connected devices continues to grow sharply and equipment vendors are incorporating wireless connectivity into a variety of products ranging from cars to gas/water meters, personal health devices, and alarm systems. This creates many interesting new targets for wireless hacking.   In 2018, expect new attacks leveraging SDR technology to intercept and decode traffic from a variety of wireless devices that incorporate protocols such as Zigbee, Sigfox, Bluetooth, RFID, LoRA, and 802.11 variations.  

The Increased Adoption of Corporate Cyber Insurance Will Fuel Ransomware Growth Cyber insurance has been around for over a decade, but the increasing number of publicly disclosed breaches and successful ransomware incidents has caused awareness for it to grow significantly in that last few years.

In countries that require mandatory breach disclosure, cyber insurance helps cover the costs and sometimes the lawsuits that result from these breaches. More recently, insurers have promoted optional extortion insurance packages that cover the costs of ransomware and other cyber extortion. In some cases, the insurers even pay the ransom to help the victim recover their information.    That brings us to our 2018 prediction; ransomware criminals will target extortion insurance customers to increase their ransom payments. Compared to spam messages, which typically have less than a one percent success rate, most studies show that at least one-third of ransomware victims pay.

This has caused ransom prices to go up, resulting in less victims paying (as WannaCry illustrated). To increase their illicit gains, ransomware criminals will target organisations that they know are more likely to pay. Since insurers will often pay if the situation demands it, smart ransomware authors will target insurers to find which organisations have extortion insurance, then target those companies directly with ransomware. 

2018 is the Year of Simple, Inexpensive Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) for SMBs Authentication is currently the weakest link in security. According to Verizon’s Data Breach report for 2017, 81 percent of hacking-related breaches leveraged stolen and/or weak credentials. If an attacker gains access to one of your employees’ credentials, they breeze right past your security controls as a “legitimate” user, even if you have the best security controls in the world.   Constant breaches and password database thefts have demonstrated that proper password best practices are too difficult for average users. As a result, the industry has moved towards other authentication factors, such as biometrics.

While these authentication factors will help solve the usability issue, they have their own security concerns as well. Most security experts agree that MFA—which involves at least two factors to authenticate users—is the most secure authentication option.    Unfortunately, effective MFA solutions have remained largely out of reach for the average small- and medium-sized business. Though enterprise multi-factor technology is quite mature, it often required complex on-premises solutions and expensive hardware tokens that most small businesses couldn’t afford or manage.

However, the growth of SaaS and smartphones has introduced new multi-factor solutions that are inexpensive and easy for small businesses to use. Next year, many SMBs will adopt these new MFA solutions to secure their more privileged accounts and users. 2018 will be the year of MFA for SMBs.

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