How has the coronavirus impacted the outlook on security over the next few years?
The Information Security Forum (ISF) recently released its annual “Threat Horizon” report, looking ahead to 2020-2022. And frankly, the future of security looks a bit scary. The three key themes from the report are:
Invasive Technology Disrupts the Everyday: New technologies will further invade every element of daily life, with sensors, cameras and other devices embedded in homes, offices, factories and public spaces.
Neglected Infrastructure Cripples Operations: The technical infrastructure upon which organizations rely will face threats from a growing number of sources: man-made, natural, accidental and malicious. In a world where constant connectivity and real-time processing is vital to doing business, even brief periods of downtime will have severe consequences.
A Crisis of Trust Undermines Digital Business: Bonds of trust will break down as emerging technologies and the next generation of employees tarnish brand reputations, compromise the integrity of information and cause financial damage.
“By 2022, organizations will be plunged into crisis as merciless attackers exploit weaknesses in immature technologies and take advantage of an unprepared workforce. At the same time, natural forces will wreak havoc on infrastructure. Invasive technologies will be embraced across both industry and consumer markets, creating an increasingly tumultuous and unpredictable security environment,” Steve Durbin, managing director of ISF, said in a formal statement. “Organizations will have to adapt quickly to survive when digital and physical worlds collide. Those that don’t will find themselves exposed to threats that will outpace and overwhelm them.”
That’s the prediction as the world was when the report was being put together. Today, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 and the massive work from home effort has had its impact on the threat landscape, and those changes are already taxing our securing teams.
How COVID-19 Is Impacting the Threat Landscape Today
More cybercriminals are using COVID-19 as the theme for almost all of their attacks, and the attacks are hitting industries that are in a state of flux because of the virus. Health care, which was always a favorite target, is as much under siege from malware infections as it is from infected patients. Education, which is right now totally online, is being hit with attacks. Manufacturing and media and government agencies—especially those that are most critical right now—are all seeing an uptick in cyberattacks. The hackers are taking advantage of fear and need for information that everyone has. This has created a literal worldwide target for threat actors and they are taking full advantage.
COVID-19 has also changed the attack surface. “The way we work now, remotely, connected to our peers via video applications, check-in, chat-applications has led us to reconsider how we can effectively support remote work policies in the future,” said Heather Paunet, vice president of Product Management at Untangle, in an email comment.
“Security teams have been met with quite a wave of needs during this pandemic,” she added. It has pushed network security teams to consider other job functions and supporting them as they worked remotely. For example, accounting teams or HR teams who work with sensitive data are now working from home—security teams had to ensure that each person understood their remote working policies and could connect via VPN to the network—and maintain that connection—throughout this time at home. But it also means there are more devices to protect without the ability to control everything, such as ensuring routers are updated and WiFi connections are password-protected.
What the Future Holds
ISF’s Threat Horizon is a unique report in that it bases its two-year threat landscape predictions from a rigorous review of the past three years of predictions. The organization looks at the past to anticipate the future. With that in mind, Durbin doesn’t believe the impact of the coronavirus today necessarily changes the threat landscape of 2022.
“What it will certainly do is change the lens through which the threats are viewed,” he said in an email conversation. “COVID-19 will significantly change the way in which organizations view threats and risk assessment, requiring many to improve their current method to risk assessment and mitigation of threats with an added focus on business resilience.”