From APTs to Deepfakes: 8 Cybersecurity Threats to Keep on Your Radar

by Kenneth Taylor

The digital age, characterized by rapid technological advancements, has reshaped every facet of our daily lives. Yet, these innovations, as transformative as they are, have unveiled a spectrum of cybersecurity challenges requiring constant attention and meticulous planning. Those of us within the cybersecurity world need to keep our finger on the pulse of those risks that could impact our organizations. Here are eight threats you should be tracking in the coming year: 

  1. Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) have emerged as one of the most formidable challenges in cybersecurity. Orchestrated by well-funded and organized threat actors who sometimes work with the backing of nation-states, APTs are distinguished not only by their sophistication but also by their long-haul objectives: espionage, long-term data theft, or infrastructure sabotage. These actors utilize continuously evolving tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). APTs' adaptability and persistence underscore the need for organizations to invest in real-time threat intelligence and initiative-taking cybersecurity strategies. 
  2. Supply chain vulnerabilities have come to the forefront after an increasing number of attacks targeting these channels. Rather than confronting the defenses of their primary targets head-on, savvy cyber adversaries exploit weaker links--like less protected or poorly managed sub-contractor or vendor systems--within an organization's supply chain. By doing so, they compromise the attacked entity and every organization tethered to that chain. It becomes paramount for organizations to maintain rigorous vetting procedures, enhance transparency, and instill secure practices throughout their supply networks to safeguard against these insidious threats.
  3. Ransomware, malware deployed by cyber criminals to take over an organization's system through encryption with the threat of releasing personal information or causing havoc as the outcome if a ransom isn't paid, is on the rise. In fact, 75% of the U.S. industrial sector has experienced a ransomware attack within the past year (read here), often with devastating results. Vulnerabilities within an organization often include weak passwords and a lack of multifactor authentication. Cyber professionals should demand stronger organizational passwords and multifactor protocols, eliminate multi-person password use, and increase network securities.
  4. The darknet, a hidden internet realm inaccessible to conventional browsers, has become a bustling marketplace for cybercriminal activities. Here, APT groups and other nefarious entities exchange tools, techniques, and even commission specialized cyber tasks. Marketplaces offering tools like ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) accentuate the evolving nature of threats. Modern cyber professionals must do more than defend their systems; they must understand and anticipate emerging threats from these obscure corners of the digital world. 
  5. The Internet of Things (IoT) connectivity, with its promise of a seamlessly integrated digital ecosystem, comes with its own vulnerabilities. Connected through Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, the cloud, and more, IoT devices are often manufactured with an emphasis on functionality over security, making them lucrative targets for cyber adversaries. As IoT devices become ubiquitous, the security challenges they pose grow exponentially. Understanding that IoT poses a cyber risk, it's in our best interest to check and secure all devices connected with our organization—or to reduce connectivity options for those that cannot be secured. 
  6. With the advent of 5G technology, we are at the cusp of this decade's communication revolution. But this leap in wireless connectivity speed and capabilities also heralds new cybersecurity challenges in the form of malicious and inadvertent risk. For example, 5G will utilize more components than earlier networks, prompting organizations and municipalities to build their own networks. These homegrown systems could lead to greater network vulnerabilities stemming from malicious software, design flaws, faulty or counterfeit components, or even a reliance on 4G legacy components. Safeguarding this new era of communication requires communication and tracking of industry leaders and government agencies for proper network development strategies and configurations, trustworthy component resources, and careful analysis of the systems in place, including ferreting out legacy system components. 
  7. Blockchain technology's potential extends far beyond cryptocurrencies. Its decentralized, transparent, and tamper-proof ledger system promises to revolutionize sectors ranging from finance to supply chain management. This future-forward technology moves quickly, with software seemingly ancient within a year. This has put cyber teams in a quandary: updating integrated technology that won't interrupt other systems. The answer is to choose the right software that can be easily maintained without disrupting business elsewhere. Compounding blockchain's risks are its minimal coverage in security vulnerability databases, including Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) database and the U.S. National Vulnerability Database (NVD). Therefore, it's up to the user to monitor security vulnerabilities and make updates on their own—something many users simply won't do.
  8. Deepfakes, an unsettling byproduct of AI advancements, possess the power to distort reality, making fiction indistinguishable from fact. We live in a world where belief is often based on what people see, meaning that deepfakes showing everything from videos of speeches that never took place to executives in pornography can have a real and lasting impact on an individual's or organization's reputation. While the world is still sorting out how to combat this menace, the best defense today is to be judicious in video development and to educate those in your organization about potential digital manipulations. 

As we journey further into this digital age, our approach to cybersecurity must be ever-vigilant as we continue to track and understand the evolving threat landscape.