• The east-west 'cyber cold war' is set to intensify
  • 5G and the IoT could make us all more vulnerable to cyberattack
  • Businesses will start to rethink their approach to the cloud

The world is more connected than ever. We are becoming more technologically advanced, markets are stronger, and central technologies that encompass our daily actions are constantly emerging.

These technological advances are based on seamless connectivity. As our digital transformation continues, we continue to build a more cohesive and connected society. Our data is now shared and used by more platforms than ever – in the datacentre, on the cloud and event on internet of things (IoT) devices, for example - and this trend will only increase. But this huge benefit comes with a cost. The more connected we become, the more vulnerable our data is.

By looking at security developments over the past couple of years, it is possible to forecast what is likely to happen in the cyber landscape over the next 12 months. Forewarned is forearmed. These are what I believe will be the main trends of cybersecurity in 2020:

1) The ‘cyber cold war’ intensifies

A new cyber 'cold war' is taking place online as Western and Eastern powers increasingly separate their technologies and intelligence. The ongoing trade feud between the US and China, and the decoupling of these two huge economies, is a clear sign. Cyberattacks will increasingly be used as proxy conflicts between smaller countries, funded and enabled by larger nations looking to consolidate and extend their respective spheres of influence.

Furthermore, utilities and critical infrastructures continue to be a target of cyberattacks, as seen in attacks on US and South African utility companies this year. Nations will need to consider dramatically strengthening cyber defenses around their critical infrastructure.

What is the World Economic Forum doing on cybersecurity

The World Economic Forum's Centre for Cybersecurity is leading the global response to address systemic cybersecurity challenges and improve digital trust. We are an independent and impartial global platform committed to fostering international dialogues and collaboration on cybersecurity in the public and private sectors. We bridge the gap between cybersecurity experts and decision makers at the highest levels to reinforce the importance of cybersecurity as a key strategic priority.

Our community has three key priorities:

Strengthening Global Cooperation - to increase global cooperation between public and private stakeholders to foster a collective response to cybercrime and address key security challenges posed by barriers to cooperation.

Understanding Future Networks and Technology - to identify cybersecurity challenges and opportunities posed by new technologies, and accelerate forward-looking solutions.

Building Cyber Resilience - to develop and amplify scalable solutions to accelerate the adoption of best practices and increase cyber resilience.

Initiatives include building a partnership to address the global cyber enforcement gap through improving the efficiency and effectiveness of public-private collaboration in cybercrime investigations; equipping business decision makers and cybersecurity leaders with the tools necessary to govern cyber risks, protect business assets and investments from the impact of cyber-attacks; and enhancing cyber resilience across key industry sectors such as electricity, aviation and oil & gas. We also promote mission aligned initiatives championed by our partner organizations.

The Forum is also a signatory of the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace which aims to ensure digital peace and security which encourages signatories to protect individuals and infrastructure, to protect intellectual property, to cooperate in defense, and refrain from doing harm.

For more information, please contact us.

2) The rise of artificial intelligence (AI)

The US elections in 2016 saw the beginning of AI-based propagation of fake news. Political campaigns devoted resources to creating special teams that orchestrated and spread false stories to undermine their opponents. As we prepare for major elections worldwide in 2020, we can expect to see these activities in full effect once again.

As AI continues to be used as a proxy for crime, it will also be used to accelerate security responses. Most security solutions are based on detection engines built on human-made logic, but keeping this up-to-date against the latest threats and across new technologies and devices is impossible to do manually. AI dramatically accelerates the identification of new threats and responses to them, helping to block attacks before they can spread widely. However, cybercriminals are also starting to take advantage of the same techniques to help them probe networks, find vulnerabilities and develop more evasive malware.

3) Our means of communication will become more weaponized

The notion that connectivity creates new combat landscapes is proven by the developing spheres of today’s and tomorrow’s cyberattacks. In the first half of 2019 we saw a 50% increase in mobile banking malware compared with last year, which means that our payment data, credentials and funds are handed over to cyberattackers in the innocent click of a button on our mobile devices. The attempts of cybercriminals to trick consumers to hand out their personal data through their most common means of communications will intensify and will range from email to SMS texting attacks, social media posts and gaming platforms. Whatever we use most frequently can become a more popular attack surface.

Cyberattack trends by region in 2019
Cyberattack trends by region in 2019
Image: Check Point

4) 5G development and adoption of IoT devices increase vulnerability

As 5G networks roll out, the use of connected IoT devices will accelerate dramatically, massively increasing networks’ vulnerability to large scale, multi-vector 5th generation cyberattacks. IoT devices and their connections to networks and clouds are still a weak link in security. This ever-growing volume of personal data will need securing against breaches and theft. We need a more holistic approach to IoT security, combining traditional and new controls to protect these ever-growing networks across all industry and business sectors.

5) Enterprises will rethink their cloud approach

Detection is no longer enough to ensure protection, and prevention is now the key to being secure.

Organizations already run a majority of their workloads in the cloud, but the level of understanding about security in the cloud remains low; in fact it is often an afterthought in cloud deployments. Security solutions need to evolve to new, flexible, cloud-based architectures that deliver scalable protection at speed.

Time for a rethink?
Time for a rethink?
Image: Check Point

Looking forward

Hardly a day goes by without a breach or cyber incident being reported. Attacks have become so damaging that the FBI has softened its stance on paying ransoms: the agency now acknowledges that in some cases, businesses may need to consider paying to protect shareholders, employees and customers. Through our ThreatCloud share intelligence technology we saw nearly 90 billion compromise attempts per day – compared with an estimated 6 billion daily searches on Google. These are new records which constantly being broken as time goes on, which means that the scope of victims is getting broader.

Understanding what is coming towards us will help us to better prepare. Some paradigms will need to shift. The enormous spread of technologies and solutions will force all of us to think about how to consolidate. In 2020 more than ever, cyberattacks are no longer a question of if, but of how and when. This is a concern that applies to us all.