How the threat landscape will change by 2020

McAfee Labs’ five year look ahead attempts to predict how the types of threat actors will change, how attackers’ behaviors and targets will change, and how the industry will meet these challenges over the next five years.


Below-the-OS attacks. Attackers could look for weaknesses in firmware and hardware as applications and operating systems are hardened against conventional attacks. The lure would be the broad control attackers can potentially gain through these attacks, as they can conceivably access any number of resources and commandeer administration and control capabilities.

Detection evasion. Attackers will attempt to avoid detection by targeting new attack surfaces, employing sophisticated attack methods, and actively evading security technology. Difficult-to-detect attack styles will include fileless threats, encrypted infiltrations, sandbox evasion malware, exploits of remote shell and remote control protocols, and the aforementioned, below-the-OS attacks targeting and exploiting master boot records (MBR), BIOS, and firmware.

New devices, new attack surfaces. While there has not yet been a surge in IoT and wearable attacks, by 2020 we may see install bases of these systems reach substantial enough penetration levels that they will attract attackers. Technology vendors and vertical solution providers will work to establish user safety guidance and industry best practices, as well as build security controls into device architectures where appropriate.

Cyberespionage goes corporate. McAfee Labs predicts that the dark market for malware code and hacking services could enable cyberespionage malware used in public sector and corporate attacks to be used for financial intelligence-gathering and the manipulation of markets in favor of attackers.

Privacy challenges, opportunities. The volume and value of personal digital data will continue to increase, attracting cyber thieves, and potentially leading to new privacy regulations around the world. Concurrently, individuals will seek and receive compensation for sharing their data, a market will develop around this “value exchange,” and the environment this market shapes could change how individuals and organizations manage digital privacy.

Security industry response. The security industry will develop more effective tools to detect and correct sophisticated attacks. Behavioral analytics could be developed to detect irregular user activities that might indicate compromised accounts. Shared threat intelligence is likely to deliver faster and better protection of systems. Cloud-integrated security could improve visibility and control. Finally, automated detection and correction technology promises to protect enterprises from the most common attacks, freeing up IT security staff to focus on the most critical security incidents.

“Keeping pace with, anticipating and preempting adversaries requires that we match the intelligence exchange, cloud computing and delivery power, platform agility, and human resource assets that cybercriminals regularly leverage,” said Vincent Weafer, vice president of Intel Security’s McAfee Labs. “To win battles against future threats, organizations must see more, learn more, detect and respond faster, and fully utilize all the technical and human resources at their disposal.”




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