This post is part of an ongoing blog series examining “Sure Things” (predictions that are almost guaranteed to happen) and “Long Shots” (predictions that are less likely to happen) in cybersecurity in 2017. 

Throughout 2016, cybersecurity moved more into the public eye than ever before. Hacks into the Democratic National Committee, BitFinex, Yahoo, Dropbox, LinkedIn, and Verizon were just a few of the high-profile security breaches that grabbed headlines this year.

With 2017 fast approaching, we expect that we’ll continue to see breaches in the news. Let’s look at some predictions for the new year around network security:

Sure Things

Phishing attacks will continue to increase… and be effective

While phishing has been around for a long time, it continues to be a very successful method of attack for hackers. The 2016 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report cites 30 percent of phishing messages were opened by the target, with a median time of the first click on a malicious attachment being within the first three minutes and 45 seconds. It’s effective, and it works. In their Q2 2016 Phishing Activity Trends Report, Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) observed 466,065 unique phishing sites in Q2 CY2016 – up 61 percent from the previous quarter’s record in Q1 CY2016. Seagate Technology, Snapchat, and Polycom are just a few examples where spear phishing attacks compromised employee payroll information in 2016. With attackers creating ever-more-realistic-looking e-mails and landing pages, we’re only going to see more of this in 2017.

Security organisations will begin to move away from security sprawl and towards true automation

To counter the malicious activities coming at them, security operations teams need to be more agile than ever – that means more visibility into what’s coming at them, a reduction of noise, and automating for faster response.

Traditionally, security teams have bolted on additional security solutions to address new threats. This has led to management frustration – coordinating security resources (oftentimes manually) from a variety of security solutions and vendors where the components don’t talk to each other or share knowledge. Security organisations will start to migrate toward solutions that are more contextually aware and security platforms that can share information across the attack surface, utilising analytics for automated detection and response.

Internet of Things (IoT) attacks become a thing

Experts have been sounding warnings about IoT security vulnerabilities for a few years now, and while hacks have been demonstrated, until recently we hadn’t seen a lot of widely reported malicious activity. That changed in a big way towards the end of 2016. We saw the largest DDoS attack ever delivered by a botnet made up of IoT devices and a major attack on Dyn just a month later led to a massive Internet outage across the U.S. and parts of Western Europe.

Gartner estimates that there are 6.4 billion connected things worldwide in use this year, a number expected to reach 20.8 billion by 2020. That’s a lot of targets.

Ease of use will be key to the success of IoT devices, but requiring individual users to constantly update their security wrinkles the user experience. Will “Uncle Joe” really go through the process of updating the default password on his new connected thermostat? Probably not – and that leaves a gaping hole for breaches depending on other connections in his network. I expect we’ll look back and view 2017 as the year IoT attacks really started – and also when we got serious as an industry about preventing them.

Long Shot

Ransomware encroaches on IoT devices

DDoS attacks are one thing, but what about ransomware on IoT devices? Ransomware has traditionally been used to hold an organisation’s valuable data hostage by locking down the computers that store that data. Attacks often come into an organisation through things like Adobe Flash or executable files.

IoT devices don’t generally store sensitive data and often don’t have the interfaces to deliver ransom notes. Malicious actors of course tend to be motivated by profits and it’s still easier, more efficient, and more profitable today to go after data where it resides. But the vulnerabilities in IoT devices will eventually lend themselves to ransomware that threatens immediate damage – shutting down a power grid or production line, for example.

As we start to see connected devices exploited more often for DDoS attacks, additional kinds of exploits are sure to follow – the question is whether it will become a profitable enough endeavour for bad actors to take mainstream in the next year.

What are your cybersecurity predictions around network security? Share your thoughts in the comments and be sure to stay tuned for the next post in this series where we’ll share predictions for endpoint security.