It’s 2015, a year that promises new opportunities and challenges for businesses large and small. Among those challenges, cyber security threats are more in the forefront than ever before, thanks to the unprecedented number of data hacks and leaks that occurred in 2014.
Fortunately, cyber security experts are already weighing in on what this year’s major threats to information and network security will be. Based on those predictions, here are 5 cyber threats businesses should be aware of in 2015.
1. Cyber threats against virtual payment systems
With the launch of new virtual mobile payment solutions such as Apple Pay, cyber attacks designed to take advantage of potential vulnerabilities within these systems will only increase. That’s the consensus of a number of security experts, including Patrick Nielsen of Kaspersky Lab. In a recent article on Forbes.com, Nielsen said, “We expect to see cybercriminals focus more on new payment systems as they are adopted and the potential for criminal financial gain increases.” Nielsen goes on to predict attacks “…against banks/virtual currency operators, the end users and their devices, and everything in between.” This prediction is not surprising, given that malware has already compromised virtual wallets and infiltrated banks themselves.
2. Nation-State attacks
According to a post on Wired.com, “nation-state attacks, like the ones exposed by Edward Snowden”, will continue to be a threat in 2015 and beyond. This is especially true in light of recent revelations about the NSA’s hacks on the networks of companies located in foreign countries—the 2013 Belgacom hack in Belgium being among the most notable. While the hack took place out of the U.S. the article cautions that, “These and other efforts the NSA has employed to undermine encryption and install backdoors in systems remain the biggest security threat that computer users face in general.”
3. Extortion threats
The same post on Wired.com places cyber attacks for extortion near the top of the list of threats for 2015. Last year’s high-profile attack on Sony, wherein foreign cybercriminals breached the company’s network, released sensitive information, and threatened to do even more damage if Sony released it’s controversial movie The Interview, is a sobering example of how powerful an extortion threat can be. So far, extortion attacks using “ransomware” to encrypt files or lock individuals or companies out of their systems until they pay up have been of a much smaller scale. But the Sony attack involved highly skilled individuals and future attacks of this nature pose a genuine threat to both governments and organizations that have much to lose in the event of a data breach and subsequent leak of sensitive information.
4. Attacks on ATMs
As pointed out in a recent post on Inquirer.net, ATMs were the subject of a number of attacks globally last year, and that trend is set to continue. Poorly protected and often located in public places for easy access, ATMs are sitting ducks for physical thefts. And the fact that most ATMs run on Windows XP makes them vulnerable to cyber attacks as well. According to Kaspersky Lab security expert Alexander Gostev, who was interviewed for the article, “In 2015, we expect to see further evolution of these ATM attacks with the use of targeted malicious techniques to gain access to the ‘brain’ of cash machines. The next stage will see attackers compromising the networks of banks and using that level of access to manipulate ATMs in real time.”
5. Threats against The Internet of Things
As more and more physical devices such as home appliances and automobiles connect to the Internet, this Internet of Things, aka IoT will usher in a new era of network vulnerabilities. According to a recent study conducted by SolarWinds, more than 50 percent of IT professionals will deploy a private or hybrid cloud for business use in 2015. Statistics like this are being found all over the pace. In fact, Jamison Nesbitt, the founder of a community of global cyber security business leaders known as Cyber Senate, tells CNBC on a recent cyber security blog that he and others feel that the Internet of Things is “the main cybersecurity risk for 2015.” As Nesbitt sees it, the problem with the IOT is that, “it hasn’t been designed with security in mind.” And yet the IoT is predicted to eventually spread into virtually every industry. “There are millions of hackers out there that could compromise these interconnected systems,” says Nesbitt, adding that, “We have sacrificed security for efficiency.”
While the above list of cyber threats is by no means definitive, it is indicative of some of the biggest threats that will present themselves in 2015. As hacking tools and technologies become more sophisticated and more widely available to cyber criminals, cyber security measures to deter these threats must also dramatically improve. Otherwise, the number of successful cyber attacks will only continue to rise. Not to mention the advancements like personal and business cloud computing where mountains of data are stored, ready to be taken by vicious hackers. With cyber-terrorists’ expertise growing and the amount of data growing, cyber attacks have every reason to be on the rise.