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2/4/2020
10:00 AM
Pieter Danhieux
Pieter Danhieux
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What WON'T Happen in Cybersecurity in 2020

Predictions are a dime a dozen. Here are six trends that you won't be hearing about anytime soon.

In many cultures, a new year is seen as a symbol of hope, of new beginnings. A chance to refresh, reset, learn from mistakes, and power ahead with a whole lot of energy and amazing plans. But with more than 5 billion sensitive data records stolen in 2019, I figured it would be more accurate to predict what won't be happening in cybersecurity in 2020. So I sat down with my Secure Code Warrior co-founder, Matias Madou, and came up with the following six trends:

SQL Injections Eradicated from All Software
Sadly, we've been waiting for this day for more than 20 years, and we'll keep waiting for at least one more. It's the vulnerability that, like a cockroach, has survived every tactic thus far to eradicate it for good. Ironically, the remedy has been known for pretty much the same length of time. Yet the prioritization of security best practice at every stage of software development (especially right from the beginning) remains too low, and certainly inadequate in light of the vast increase of code production since the discovery of SQL injection.

Developers and AppSec Becoming Best Friends
Ah, developers and the AppSec team. Will they ever get along, or are they destined to a life of rivalry like Rocky vs. Apollo? The short answer is yes, they can get along, but right now their priorities are often very different.

When they meet in a project environment, they're on opposite pages and clash right at the final hurdle, when AppSec specialists are poring through a developer's code. The developer has built beautiful, functional features (which is his or her top priority) that are torn apart if security vulnerabilities are discovered. The AppSec specialist has, in effect, called the baby ugly and forced the developer to go back and fix any bugs, often delaying deployment.

In our current state, this won't be fixed until both teams work toward a common goal, which is the creation of secure software. This is not going to happen as a default process in 2020, but with the advent of the DevSecOps movement, developers are starting to recognize the need to upskill in security and work to a higher standard that includes security objectives from the beginning.

An Oversupply of Security Professionals
In 2020, 2025, 2030 … it's almost guaranteed that we will be short-staffed globally when it comes to security expertise. According to a report from (ISC)2, there are around 2.93 million cybersecurity positions currently unfilled. This is almost certainly going to get worse before it gets better, and there is no hidden security army waiting to march to our rescue this year.

In the immediate future, our best chance to address the skills shortage is to make security an organizational priority and upskill our existing workforce, which means empowering developers with the training and tools to code securely and creating a companywide security culture. Most current AppSec teams are probably fighting against well-known, old security bugs (see the first point above). If we ensure they don't have to spend precious time and effort fixing these common issues, they will have more bandwidth to focus on tough security problems such as APIs and building tools that fit development pipelines.

Production of Less Code     
The world is being digitized at a staggering rate, and societal demand is not going to waver. According to research from Cisco and Cybersecurity Ventures, there are approximately 111 billion lines of code written each year, and this number will only grow larger and more terrifying for already-stretched AppSec teams.

A Reduction in Stolen Data Records
More code means more vulnerabilities, and this presents more opportunities for attackers to find a way to steal data. At least 5.3 billion records were stolen worldwide in 2019, and defense against attackers is still a bit of a desperate, reactive scramble. This number may not double in 2020, but I think it will get close.

According to Statistica research, there has been an upward trend in breaches and number of stolen records in the US, with a huge peak in 2017. The number of attacks trended downward in 2018, perhaps due to tougher security measures, but the number of records obtained was the highest it has ever been. Going forward, cyberattacks will become increasingly sophisticated and high-volume, and they're not going away anytime soon.

Developers Demand Longer, More Frequent Video-Based Security Training
If there is one thing developers love, it's watching hours upon hours of computer-based training videos. In fact, such is the demand for this captivating content, Netflix will announce a whole new subcategory dedicated to generic security training videos.

Er, nope. Not now, not in 2020, not ever. For developers, the introduction to security is often by way of workplace compliance training. Secure coding is rarely part of their tertiary education, and on-the-job training can be the very first encounter with software security. And, unsurprisingly, they often don't like it.

For developers to take security seriously — and for training to be useful — it has to be relevant, engaging, and contextual to their jobs. One-off compliance training — or an endless stream of dull videos — is not the way to a developer's heart, and it's not going to reduce vulnerabilities.

If you want developers to have any chance of becoming a security-aware defensive force against common vulnerabilities, get them working with real code examples — the kind they would come across in their day-to-day tasks. Make the learning bite-sized, easy to build upon, and incentivize it with a sense of fun. For a security culture to thrive, it must be positive, engaging, and develop real skills and solutions across the organization.

Zero Deaths from a Cybersecurity-Related Incident
This is clearly no laughing matter. I've said many times that the world simply won't care about cybersecurity until people start dying from a cyberattack-related incident. The problem is that this has already happened, and it went largely unnoticed.

Cyberattacks against US hospitals have been linked to a rise in heart attack deaths in 2019. Of course, the attackers did not cause lethal cardiac events in patients, but their ransomware attacks on hospital systems and equipment slowed treatment times for critical care. This study from the University of Central Florida analyzed 3,000 hospitals, 311 of which had experienced a data breach. In those that were affected by a security incident, healthcare workers took an average of 2.7 minutes longer to give suspected heart attack victims an ECG, likely due to procedural changes, newly implemented security measures, and IT support issues taking up more time than it did previously. Identifying and treating a heart attack is a race against time, and those hospitals saw an additional 36 deaths per 10,000 heart attacks per year on average.

Fewer Stock Images of "Hooded Hackers"
If you type "hacker" into an image search, you will inevitably uncover thousands of images of a hooded, faceless figure typing away at a laptop, or a similar figure in a Guy Fawkes mask. This stereotyped image of a hacker is getting really tired, and makes everyone look like a bad guy. There are plenty of security good guys and girls, and the negative connotations around the hacker image do everyone a disservice.

Do I see this changing in 2020? Probably not, but it's nice to dream. For now, it's important to remember that security doesn't have to be scary.

Related Content:

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's top story: "7 Steps to IoT Security in 2020."

Pieter Danhieux is a globally recognised security expert, with over 12 years experience as a security consultant and 8 years as a Principal Instructor for SANS teaching offensive techniques on how to target and assess organisations, systems and individuals for security ... View Full Bio
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