Massive increase in targeted attacks, deepfakes and hacktivism. The outlook for IT security is not bright
Massive increase in targeted attacks, deepfakes and hacktivism. The outlook for IT security is not bright

​​According to the experts at AEC, a leader in cybersecurity, some of the most common threats in cyberspace were until recently random attacks. However, we are now seeing a significant increase in targeted attacks which are much more sophisticated. The trend is towards a combination of different types of aggressive attacks by increasingly differentiated criminal groups. Attackers, who now have cutting-edge technologies, including artificial intelligence, are also perfecting methods to put their victims under as much pressure as possible.

We can still count phishing as one of the most common types of attacks, but it has changed significantly. This is also confirmed by Maroš Barabas, Head of Product Management at AEC: “Phishing has become very sophisticated. We have seen the quality of phishing scams improve year on year, including the graphic appearance of the messages. Attackers are already now able to mimic any official email with such authenticity that even knowledgeable people, including IT professionals, will have trouble recognising phishing scams in the foreseeable future.”

There has also been a dramatic increase in ransomware attacks, up 200 percent from previous years. Specialists at AEC helped an unprecedented number of customers who had been attacked last year. Along with the intensity, the nature of these attacks is also changing. Hackers are focusing more on specific critical locations in the systems they attack such as network or backup drives.

Attackers today operate like regular companies, meaning they have they own suppliers and customers. This allows them to become more specialised. As a result of this, they are perfecting techniques for gaining access to their victim’s infrastructure, delivering malware, extortion or laundering dirty cryptocurrency into dollars or euros.

For companies, this means that they need to change their perspective on how to defend themselves effectively as quickly as possible. Maroš Barabas sums the situation up as follows: “We expect to see an increasing emphasis on Cyber Resilience in the coming years. This means that companies will prepare in advance for the fact that sooner or later they will be attacked and have a strategy in place to recover effectively from that attack.”

Companies continue to recognise the need to train employees in cybersecurity using the most effective forms of education. However, they will also be forced to improve other security measures, including a greater emphasis on verifying the identity of all people concerned (e.g. the Zero Trust approach) and other related identity centralisation systems, so-called Identity-Centric Security. At the same time, we will see even greater adoption of passwordless authentication.

Changes can also be expected in the greater emphasis on compliance, i.e. on ensuring that the company’s activities comply with the regulations. The European Union’s new NIS2 directive on network and information security will affect about six thousand domestic companies.

Artificial intelligence is experiencing a massive boom. It is no longer difficult for hackers to access the most advanced technologies, which offer them much greater options for automation, including the opportunity to use an almost unlimited range of languages. All of this ultimately gives them a greater chance of succeeding with much faster and more powerful attacks, including deepfakes.

Hacktivism and disinformation campaigns are becoming a major topic. The war in Ukraine has shown us that there is a growing number of groups which are assiduously organising themselves to carry out attacks, for example to execute code, overwhelm the system of a selected company and cause as much damage to it as possible. An ever-increasing threat to companies may also be posed by their own people. If employees are frustrated, for example by their economic situation, they are more likely to believe all sorts of half-truths and are more willing to harm their employer, often with fatal consequences.

Another risk is the rapid development of digitalisation and cloud technologies, which are however being used in an old-fashioned way due to a lack of trust in the unknown. Experts agree that sooner or later companies will have to rethink this approach and start addressing API security, although many will only do so after they have been the target of an attack.

“There is no doubt that we are facing extraordinary challenges today. Many solutions are already proving to be dead ends in the face of future threats, many technologies need to be abandoned and some stages skipped. It is clear then looking at the longer-term horizon that we will be forced to start looking at the issue of IT security in a completely new way,” says Maroš Barabas from AEC, in conclusion.