Weaponizing of intelligent edge predicted to dramatically alter speed and scale of future cyberattacks

20:41 | 23/12/2020 Science - Technology

Fortinet - a global leader in broad, integrated, and automated cybersecurity solutions, today unveiled predictions from the FortiGuard Labs global threat intelligence and research team about the threat landscape for 2021 and beyond.  

2020 demonstrated the ability of cyber adversaries to leverage dramatic changes happening in our daily lives as new opportunities for attacks at an unprecedented scale. Going into 2021 and beyond, we face another significant shift with the rise of new intelligent edges, which is about more than just end-users and devices remotely connecting to the network. Targeting these emerging edges will not only create new attack vectors, but groups of compromised devices could work in concert to target victims at 5G speeds. To get out ahead of this coming reality, all edges must be part of a larger, integrated, and automated security fabric platform that operates across the core network, multi-cloud environments, branch offices, and remote workers”, said - Derek Manky, Chief, Security Insights & Global Threat Alliances, FortiGuard Labs.

weaponizing of intelligent edge predicted to dramatically alter speed and scale of future cyberattacks

These predictions reveal strategies the team anticipates cybercriminals will employ in the near future, along with recommendations that will help defenders prepare to protect against these oncoming attacks. Cyber adversaries leveraging intelligent edges, 5G-enabled devices, and advances in computing power will create a wave of new and advanced threats at unprecedented speed and scale. In addition, threat actors will continue to shift significant resources to target and exploit emerging edge environments, such as remote workers, or even new OT edge environments, rather than just targeting the core network.

For defenders, it is critical to plan ahead now by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to speed threat prevention, detection, and response. Actionable and integrated threat intelligence will also be important to improve an organization’s ability to defend in real time as the speed of attacks continues to increase.

Highlights of the predictions follow, but for a more detailed view of the predictions and key takeaways, visit the blog.

Over the past few years, the traditional network perimeter has been replaced with multiple edge environments, WAN, multi-cloud, data center, remote worker, IoT, and more, each with its unique risks. One of the most significant advantages to cybercriminals in all of this is that while all of these edges are interconnected many organizations have sacrificed centralized visibility and unified control in favor of performance and digital transformation. As a result, cyber adversaries are looking to evolve their attacks by targeting these environments and will look to harness the speed and scale possibilities 5G will enable.

While end-users and their home resources are already targets for cybercriminals, sophisticated attackers will use these as a springboard into other things going forward. Corporate network attacks launched from a remote worker's home network, especially when usage trends are clearly understood, can be carefully coordinated so they do not raise suspicions. Eventually, advanced malware could also discover even more valuable data and trends using new EATs (Edge Access Trojans) and perform invasive activities such as intercept requests off the local network to compromise additional systems or inject additional attack commands.

Compromising and leveraging new 5G-enabled devices will open up opportunities for more advanced threats. There is progress being made by cybercriminals toward developing and deploying swarm-based attacks. These attacks leverage hijacked devices divided into subgroups, each with specialized skills. They target networks or devices as an integrated system and share intelligence in real time to refine their attack as it is happening. Swarm technologies require large amounts of processing power to enable individual swarmbots and to efficiently share information in a bot swarm. This enables them to rapidly discover, share, and correlate vulnerabilities, and then shift their attack methods to better exploit what they discover.

Smart devices or other home-based systems that interact with users, will no longer simply be targets for attacks, but will also be conduits for deeper attacks. Leveraging important contextual information about users including daily routines, habits, or financial information could make social engineering-based attacks more successful. Smarter attacks could lead to much more than turning off security systems, disabling cameras, or hijacking smart appliances, it could enable the ransoming and extortion of additional data or stealth credential attacks.

Ransomware continues to evolve, and as IT systems increasingly converge with operational technology (OT) systems, particularly critical infrastructure, there will be even more data, devices, and unfortunately, lives at risk. Extortion, defamation, and defacement are all tools of the ransomware trade already. Going forward, human lives will be at risk when field devices and sensors at the OT edge, which include critical infrastructures, increasingly become targets of cybercriminals in the field.

Nguyen Huong