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11/30/2016
04:00 PM
Matthew Rosenquist
Matthew Rosenquist
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Cybercriminals' Next Target: Short-Term Dangers (Part 1 of 2)

With the holidays approaching, the focus will be on lucrative online shopping, email ransomware, phishing for credentials, and infection by holiday-lurking malware.

Knowing what cybercriminals are targeting today is easy. Their attacks are loud, impactful, and have the elegance of a herd of bulls crashing through a glassware shop. The tougher challenge is figuring out where they will take aim tomorrow. Knowing where cyberthreats will attack in the future gives the necessary insights to be one step ahead of their mayhem. 

The Short Term

With the holidays approaching, the focus will be on lucrative online shopping, email ransomware, phishing for credentials, and infection by holiday-lurking malware. It is also a time for dark markets to thrive, selling unmentionables to those looking for illegal items for holiday celebrations. 

We must all expect malware-ridden holiday sale emails and websites. Be on the lookout for fake shipping invoices or urgent messages from merchants. Shady ecommerce sites advertising insane deals as bait will look to harvest credit card accounts, emails, and maybe convince you to install some “helpful” software. Phishing will increase a notch, and look for a new wave of ransomware to hold family pictures, personal files, and entire systems for extortion. Identity theft will add to the rise of new credit card applications to do some unauthorized shopping. In the next couple of months, all these financially motivated threats will increase, so now is the time to be on your guard.

Businesses Beware

Businesses must worry about the increased amount of ecommerce fraud, ransomware that extorts money to unlock important files, and the ever present risk of data breaches. Healthcare, retail, and financial sectors will be targeted the most, but all businesses are in jeopardy. Social media will be targeted as a springboard to reach more potential victims and influence them to download or visit sites containing malware. For some larger companies, who rely on heavy Web traffic, there will be Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) extortion attempts. The threat: Pay or be unavailable to your customers. As always, cash is king and credit is queen.

More ATM attacks are in our future. Europe will be the hotbed, given its machine density and proximity to current thieving bands that are becoming more proficient at these attacks. The US will suffer from more credit card and debit card fraud -- some in-store, but more shifting toward online sites as the chip-on-card initiative forces thieves to adapt.

Exploiting IoT Devices

Hacking home Internet of Things (IoT) devices -- the ones always connected to the Internet -- is easy for botnet herders looking to amass an army to conduct DDoS attacks. But there is little money in attacking. Some will adjust to provide “protection” extortion schemes. Others will move into using those simple devices to create social media accounts which can “follow” or “like” in mass for a fee. Early signs are already present as buying followers/likes is lucrative business in the ego-markets of social media.

Looking down the road a bit, we will actually see fewer random attacks against IoT devices. Two factors are at play here. First, IoT device manufacturers and consumers will shift to close the basic weakness: the use of default passwords. The second change will be when professional hackers, likely organized criminals and nation states, take over the market with more professional hacking capabilities. They tend not to play nice with others. Upon compromising an IoT device, they will immediately close the vulnerability so they are not displaced by another hacker. This ensures they keep control of their victim.  

We will see more creative ways for attackers to monetize this resource by coupling with ransomware, DDoS attacks, data leakage, creation of mass accounts to facilitate fraud, and perhaps even creating specialty routing networks to obfuscate traffic. The result is more devices exploited, but in a more organized manner, until such time as the IoT industry becomes more secure overall.

In my next blog, I will share what cybercriminals will target in the long term. There are many opportunities for them to choose from that could reap big payouts. They are a greedy lot, and I expect them to make bold moves.

Interested in more? Follow me on Twitter (@Matt_Rosenquist) and LinkedIn to hear insights and what is going on in cybersecurity.

Matthew Rosenquist is a cybersecurity strategist who actively advises global businesses, academia, and governments to identify emerging risks and opportunities.  Formerly the cybersecurity strategist for Intel Corp., he benefits from 30 years in the security field. He ... View Full Bio
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