A look at the future of cybersecurity in 2022 and beyond
By Corey Nachreiner, Chief Security Officer, WatchGuard Technologies
2021 was another wild year in cybersecurity with the industry facing everything from hackers attacking remote workers to a deluge of ransomware attacks against critical infrastructure and much more. As we wave goodbye to 2021, it’s time for the WatchGuard Threat Lab to provide its annual predictions for 2022. This year the team decided to layer on some added humor and deliver our predictions with some fun “SNL Weekend Update” parody style videos – so if you’d rather watch than read, take a look here. If not, here are some of our 2022 predictions (you access the entire list here):
- State-Sponsored Mobile Threats Trickle Down to the Cybercrime Underworld
Mobile malware certainly exists – especially on the Android platform – but hasn’t yet risen to the same scale of traditional desktop malware. In part, we believe this is due to mobile devices being designed with a secure mechanism (e.g., secure boot) from the start, making it much more difficult to create “zero-touch” threats that don’t require victim interaction. However, serious remote vulnerabilities have existed against these devices, though harder to find.
Meanwhile, mobile devices present a very enticing target to state-sponsored cyber teams due to both the devices’ capabilities and information contained in them. As a result, groups selling to state-sponsored organizations are mostly responsible for funding much of the sophisticated threats and vulnerabilities targeting mobile devices. Unfortunately, like in the case of Stuxnet, when these more sophisticated threats leak, criminal organizations learn from them and copy the attack techniques.
Next year, we believe we’ll see an increase in sophisticated cybercriminal mobile attacks due to the state-sponsored mobile attacks that have started to come to light.
- News of Hackers Targeting Space Hits the Headlines
With renewed government and private focus on the “Space Race” and recent cybersecurity research concentration on satellite vulnerabilities, we believe a “hack in space” will hit the headlines in 2022.
Recently, satellite hacking has gained investigative attention from the cybersecurity community among researchers and at conferences like DEF CON. While satellites might seem out of reach from most threats, researchers have found they can communicate with them using about $300 worth of gear. Furthermore, older satellites may not have focused on modern security controls.
Meanwhile, many private companies have begun their space race, which will greatly increase the attack surface in orbit. Between those two trends, plus the value of orbital systems to nation states, economies, and society, we suspect governments have quietly started their cyber defense campaigns in space already. Don’t be surprised if we see a space-related hack in the headlines soon.
- Spear SMSishing Hammers Messenger Platforms
Text-based phishing, known as SMSishing has increased steadily over the years. Like email social engineering, it started with untargeted lure messages being spammed to large groups of users, but lately has evolved into more targeted texts that masquerade as messages from someone you know. In parallel, the platforms we prefer for short text messages have evolved as well.
Users, especially professionals, have realized the insecurity of cleartext SMS messages thanks to NIST, various carrier breaches, and knowledge of weaknesses in carrier standards like Signaling System 7 (SS7).
Where legitimate users go, malicious cybercriminals follow. As a result, we are starting to see an increase in reports of malicious spear SMSishing-like messages to messenger platforms like WhatsApp. We expect to see targeted phishing messages over many messaging platforms double in 2022.
- Password-Less Authentication Fails Long Term Without MFA
It’s official. Windows has gone password-less! While we celebrate the move away from passwords alone for digital validation, we also believe the continued current focus of single-factor authentication for Windows logins simply repeats the mistakes from history. Windows 10 and 11 will now allow you to set up completely password-less authentication, using options like Hello (Microsoft’s biometrics), a Fido hardware token, or an email with a one-time password (OTP).
The only strong solution to digital identify validation is multi-factor authentication (MFA). In our opinion, Microsoft (and others) could have truly solved this problem by making MFA mandatory and easy in Windows. You can still use Hello as one easy factor of authentication, but organizations should force users to pair it with another, like a push approval to your mobile phone that’s sent over an encrypted channel. We predict that Windows password-less authentication will take off in 2022, but we expect hackers and researchers to find ways to bypass it.
- Companies Increase Cyber Insurance Despite Soaring Costs
Since the astronomical success of ransomware starting back in 2013, cyber security insurers have realized that payout costs to cover clients against these threats have increased dramatically. In fact, according to a report from S&P Global, cyber insurers’ loss ratio increased for the third consecutive year in 2020 by 25 points, or more than 72%. This resulted in premiums for stand-alone cyber insurance policies to increase 28.6% in 2020 to $1.62 billion USD. As a result, they have greatly increased the cybersecurity requirements for customers. Not only has the price of insurance increased, but insurers now actively scan and audit the security of clients before providing cyber security-related coverage.
In 2022, if you don’t have the proper protections in place, you may not get cyber insurance at the price you’d like, or at all. Like other regulations and compliance standards, this new insurer focus on security and auditing will drive a new focus by companies to improve defenses in 2022.
About the Author
Corey Nachreiner is the CSO of WatchGuard Technologies. A front-line cybersecurity expert for nearly two decades, Corey regularly contributes to security publications and speaks internationally at leading industry trade shows like RSA. He has written thousands of security alerts and educational articles and is the primary contributor to the Secplicity Community, which provides daily videos and content on the latest security threats, news and best practices. A Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Corey enjoys “modding” any technical gizmo he can get his hands on and considers himself a hacker in the old sense of the word. Corey can be reached online via Twitter and WatchGuard’s company website https://www.watchguard.com.