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May 28, 2024 |

What is the future of cybersecurity?

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When looking at the future of cybersecurity, there’s one major caveat to keep in mind: it could all change in a moment.

Year after year, the industry changes. Cyber threats evolve, and the tools that defend against them mirror those changes, evolving in their own right to better defend increasingly complex networks.

The evolution, at least as far as tools go, looks a bit like this:

The future of cybersecurity tools: then, now, and tomorrow. 1990 = AV. 2005 = SIEM. 2013 = EDR. 2016 = MDR. 2018 = XDR

Now, what's next?

We’ve explored how cybersecurity changed in past years, threats to keep an eye on, and security trends small businesses should watch for, and now it’s time to look further ahead.

In this blog, our experienced analysts share their thoughts on what the future of cybersecurity may look like.

Cyber threats that'll remain an issue

Certain attack tactics are bound to stick around—and that’s because they work. These are the threats that our experts believe still pose a serious cybersecurity risk.

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In 2023, the ransomware trend continued, and we anticipate the future of cybersecurity holds much of the same. As the number of threat actors in this realm increases, we’ve also seen notable increases in the frequency, scope, and volume of ransomware attacks.

MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment both suffered significant ransomware attacks in late 2023. While ransomware isn’t a new trend, what’s significant in these cases is who the victims were and how the attackers breached these networks.

Any company that holds and/or moves large sums of money is a high-value target for cybercriminals. Knowing this, these organizations tend to have some of the best cybersecurity practices in place to help prevent, contain, and recover from cyberattacks. Yet, in roughly a month, the two casino giants were not only breached but had huge amounts of customer data stolen.

How did the attackers breach these networks? Caesars has said the incident started from a social engineering attack on an outsourced IT support provider. Scattered Spider, the cybercrime group taking credit for the MGM hack, has said they used social engineering as well, finding an employee on LinkedIn and calling the organization’s help desk to gain access to that employee’s account.

This brings us to our second attack tactic.

Social engineering

We mentioned this last year and it stands true still. Although security solutions are more robust and powerful than ever, they still face one major challenge: human error.

Users can and will continue making mistakes that lead to data loss. We’ll continue to see social engineering and phishing attacks, but we’ll likely see more complexity there as social engineers make greater use of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.

After all, social engineering is all about crafting messages and sending legitimate-sounding emails that lure victims into clicking on a link. Instead of the typical “password reset” or “mailbox full” scams, AI will allow threat actors to become more sophisticated with their messages.

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Cybersecurity roles still sit empty

The cybersecurity workforce gap continued to grow in 2023, with 71% of organizations noting they have been impacted by the skills shortage. The threat landscape, which continues to move at incredible speeds, has exacerbated this issue and caused burnout in the sector.

A study conducted by CRITICALSTART in mid-2023 found that 93% of organizations plan to offload some aspect of cyber risk reduction to security service providers within the next two years to help combat these issues.

To circumvent this long-standing threat, many businesses are working with some form of managed security provider to avoid the expenses and stresses of building and running an in-house team.

Third-party providers can act as a turnkey solution, taking on some (or most) of the cybersecurity responsibilities needed to keep an organization safe from compromises and cyberattacks.

The future of cybersecurity: Trends, threats, and more

Speculating on the future of cybersecurity is inherently challenging. From new attacks and techniques to technology and defenses, it’s always changing.

Still, our cybersecurity analysts have provided their best insights on what the future may hold, looking at this calendar year and beyond.

More attention on prevention and preparedness

In the next five to ten years, prevention and preparedness will be more vital than ever.

If 2023 taught the cybersecurity industry anything, it’s that proactively planning for a cybersecurity incident or data breach is critical.

We expect to see a greater emphasis on incident preparedness and response playbooks, not to mention greater investment in employee education and training at all levels.

Continued development of regulations

What’s more, evolving privacy and security concerns are expected to become far more urgent as laws come into full force.

Beyond the European Union General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR), Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), additional state- or region-level regulations are being introduced at a rapid pace.

Plus, the greater scrutiny of cybersecurity controls could lead to further impacts for in-scope companies and organizations.

Companies that work with personally identifiable information should prioritize compliance moving forward. Ensuring cybersecurity programs comply with existing or forthcoming regulations and align with accepted frameworks is and will continue to be a top-of-mind concern.

Cyber insurance will drive demand for cybersecurity assessments

The cyber insurance market has faced many challenges, most notably the difficulty of assessing and pricing cyber risk due to the lack of historical data, the dynamic and evolving nature of cyber threats, and the potential for systemic and catastrophic losses.

To ease this burden, we expect cyber insurance providers to require or incentivize their clients to undergo cybersecurity assessments as part of the underwriting process or the policy conditions. This could help the insurers to evaluate the risk profile and premium of the clients, as well as to provide recommendations and guidance for improving their cybersecurity.

These assessments can demonstrate a client’s compliance with the cyber insurance policy requirements or lower their premiums by showing their security maturity and use of best practices.

Cloud-based services: A growing target

Companies are using more cloud services than ever before. This is a mix of moving some traditionally on-premises services like email and file sharing/storage to the cloud and the rise of popular cloud-only collaboration and customer relationship management platforms.

These services are generally set up for the optimal balance between security and productivity. While more secure settings are possible, they often require extra steps that few organizations have the time or technical know-how to take.

This is part of a greater issue regarding the shared responsibility model used by cloud service providers. In this model, both provider and user are partially responsible for the management and cybersecurity considerations of the service, the extent of which is dependent on the service type.

However, organizations using these services may not fully understand where their responsibilities start and stop, leaving a gap in implementing security measures that make the organization more vulnerable than necessary.

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Threat actors know this, and we expect to see an increase in the targeting of these services, especially those handling high-value data that can be used for extortion or to facilitate financial fraud.

AI & the future of cybersecurity

We can’t talk about 2023, 2024, and beyond without highlighting AI.

It has been a huge year for artificial intelligence with tools like ChatGPT and DALL E enjoying more mainstream use with integrations into powerhouse ecosystems like Microsoft’s Copilot.

It's clear already that threat actors are using AI in their cyberattacks, but defenders too will continue making use of this new technology.

Here are just a few ways AI is improving cybersecurity for the future:

Threat detection and hunting

AI models, built from vast amounts of data, will help to identify patterns and anomalies associated with cyber threats. Learning from this and historical attack information, AI will help to detect new quickly and precisely.

Behavioral analysis

Defenders will use AI to study user and system behavior and establish baselines. Deviations from these baselines will help to trigger cybersecurity alerts, detecting potentially malicious behavior earlier than before.

Predictive analytics

AI models will predict potential vulnerabilities and attack vectors. By analyzing historical data, they will forecast emerging threats and recommend proactive security measures. These predictive analytics will aid in the prioritization of patch management and vulnerability assessments.

Natural language processing (NLP)

NLP-based AI systems that analyze textual data such as emails, chat logs, and social media will help identify phishing attempts, malicious URLs, and suspicious content. This data will then be used to improve email filtering tools, DNS firewall products, and user awareness materials.

Adaptive authentication

AI-driven authentication systems will assess user behavior during login attempts. If the behavior deviates from what's considered the norm, this will trigger additional authentication steps, enhancing security without causing inconvenience to legitimate users.

Zero-day vulnerability detection

AI will help identify zero-day vulnerabilities by analyzing code and system behavior, learning from known vulnerabilities and predicting potential weaknesses. We expect AI-driven efficiencies in quality assurance testing to also help with the discovery and remediation of vulnerabilities before software is released.

Dive deeper into the future of cybersecurity

It’s hard to look at the calendar and make predictions about what the future will hold, especially in an industry as complex and fast-paced as cybersecurity. That said, for years we’ve seen the same patterns again and again. If threat actors are finding success by doing things one way, they’ll continue to.

By taking the time now to build up your cybersecurity knowledge, you can set your business up for lasting success as changes arise and new threats emerge.

Find out what’s in store for cybersecurity—including emerging trends, insights, and predictions from the experts at Field Effect—in our eBook, The State of Cybersecurity: Your Guide to this Year and Beyond.