Report: 2019 Cybercriminals Will Join Forces, Attack Social Media and Edge Devices

Cyber threats will become more advanced next year with the artificial intelligence, data exfiltration attacks on the cloud and greater collaboration between cyber criminals, according to a recently released McAfee Labs 2019 Threats Predictions Report.

The cybersecurity vendor predicts that the cybercriminal underground will create more underground partnerships in hidden hacker forums and chat groups, and that cyber criminals will increase attacks on social media platforms and edge devices (any network-enabled system hardware or protocol within an Internet of Things product).

“We have witnessed greater collaboration among cybercriminals exploiting the underground market, which has allowed them to develop efficiencies in their products,” wrote Raj Samani, chief scientist and McAfee fellow, in the report. “Cybercriminals have been partnering in this way for years; in 2019 this market economy will only expand. The game of cat and mouse the security industry plays with ransomware developers will escalate, and the industry will need to respond more quickly and effectively than ever before.”

The report found: 
  • The cybercriminal underworld will consolidate, creating fewer but stronger malware-as-a-service families that will actively work together. A continuation of the strongest ransomware “brands” using affiliate structures to increase their threat is also predicted. 
  • Attackers will be employing AI to help them avoid detection by security software, particularly to automate target selection, or to check infected environments before deploying later stages and avoiding detection. In fact, an entire underground economy has emerged, where criminals can now outsource products and dedicated services to aid their activities. 
  • 2019 will see the use of multifaceted, synergistic threats – in other words, where several different kinds of cyberthreats (phishing, ransomware, cryptojacking) are used in tandem. These attacks are hard to classify, and even harder to mitigate, and is yet another manifestation of cybercriminals becoming even more sophisticated and collaborative. 
  • There will be a significant increase in data exfiltration attacks that target the cloud. With a 33 percent increase in users collaborating on this data during the past year, cybercriminals are using various methods to seek more targets in the coming year, particularly by targeting weak APIs or ungoverned API endpoints.

McAfee also predicts attacks on social media platforms to increase, and cited a recent instance where a social media account that we a few weeks old, with 279 followers, generated an additional 1,500 followers by simply tweeting malicious content.

“In 2019, we predict an increase of misinformation and extortion campaigns via social media that will focus on brands and originate not from nation-state actors but from criminal groups,” the report says, adding that the deployment of botnets by rival nations against the U.S. will rise. “Nation-states leverage bot battalions to deliver messages or manipulate opinion, and their effectiveness is striking. Bots often will take both sides of a story to spur debate, and this tactic works.”

READ THE FULL REPORT HERE

Multimedia journalist James Cullum is Managing Editor of Homeland Security Today's Federal Pages. He has reported for over a decade to newspapers, magazines and websites in the D.C. metro area. He excels at finding order in chaotic environments, from slave liberations in South Sudan to the halls of the power in Washington, D.C.

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