Cybersecurity in 2020: Eight frightening predictions

Jack Wallen shares cybersecurity predictions that might make your IT skin crawl. Find out what he thinks could be the silver lining to this security nightmare.

Online safety and security

Image: iStockphoto/solarseven

The coming year looks promising on many levels; however, there could also be an inordinate rise of security breaches, attacks, and incidents. What will make 2020 such a banner year is that hackers will start turning technology against the companies that deploy it. 

Confused? Let’s dive in so I can explain what I believe will make 2020 reset the bar for security attacks.

SEE: The 10 most important cyberattacks of the decade (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

1. A voting machine hack

Much of what will ail technology will center around the 2020 US presidential election. It’s been proven how easy network-attached voting machines can be hacked, so it should come as no surprise that this coming election will see numerous machines breached and votes changed. Because of this, it will also be the year when the leaders of the country understand that the technology supporting our elections is not up to the task of keeping our votes safe.

2. Deepfakes will cloud the 2020 US presidential election

Speaking of the 2020 US presidential election, social media will be awash in deepfake videos aimed at misleading voters. These deepfake videos will be so convincing that it will require forensic specialists to uncover them. They will first target presidential candidates but will spread to members of congress and celebrities. The web that these videos will weave is going to be complicated, confusing, and convincing, and citizens must be vigilant in not falling for anything untoward, at least not without first doing a bit of vetting.

SEE: Checklist: Security Risk Assessment (TechRepublic Premium)

3. A massive cloud data breach

I believe there will be a data breach to end all data breaches, and it will happen in the cloud and affect billions of users. Chances are it will happen to a hybrid cloud that will lead the hackers down a rabbit hole that will gain them access to multiple cloud entities. This breach will cause a fundamental shift in how cloud providers handle security; look for serious changes to the authentication process of cloud providers by the end of the year.

4. Vulnerabilities in container images

2019 brought one crucial issue into the spotlight: Container security begins with the images used. 2020 will see a continued rise in container image vulnerabilities, leading to the deployment of containers with weak security and open for breaches. By the end of the year, someone will roll out the technology to not only scan–which we already have–but to patch vulnerable images (Harbor/Clair, are you listening?). Until then, everyone who deploys containers must be vigilant in using official or in-house images only.

SEE: Tech Predictions For 2020: More must-read coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)

5. Improvements in facial recognition

With the release of the Pixel 4, Google proved it can one-up Apple’s facial recognition, but it won’t stop there. Google will continue to release updates to this technology to make it the single most secure biometric authentication tool on the market. Starting with flagship devices and trickling down to mid-priced devices, nearly all smartphone OEMs will depend on facial recognition by the end of 2020, thus marking the end of the fingerprint sensor. Facial recognition will also be deployed for laptops and desktops.

6. AI security integration deepens

2020 will see a deepening of the integration between artificial intelligence (AI) and security, which will lead to self-healing, self-hardening networks that offer the promise of “unbreachability.” I also expect the widespread use of firewalls that depend on AI for real-time learning and rule adjustment, based on threats. Some companies (such as Fortinet) offer firewall appliances that include AI learning, but by the end of 2020, we could see a new security subsystem for Linux that includes AI. This new firewall will not be available to the public this coming year, but the pieces will start falling into place for a beta release in 2021. 

7. Smarter AI cybersecurity attacks

Hackers will start using AI in two different ways: First, they’ll use AI to make it easier to breach networks. Someone will code an “AI hackbot” and unleash it, and the hackbot will attempt to breach a network, fail, and learn from its failure. The next breach will succeed, and the hackbot will continue learning until it becomes almost unstoppable. 

The second way hackers will use AI is to attack company AI tools while they are still learning, making it possible to use those AI bots against the company and breaching the company’s network. Skynet, are you listening?

SEE: These are the worst hacks, cyberattacks, and data breaches of 2019 (ZDNet)

8. Spike in edge computing attacks

There will be a massive spike in edge computing deployments and an equal climb in attacks on these devices. Because edge computing devices process data, this will lead to serious breaches that include names, addresses, bank account numbers, and more. The frightening thing about such attacks is that–with the advent of 5G–there could be thousands of edge devices in a small area, meaning the attack could quickly escalate out of control, resulting in millions of people having their identities and data stolen.

Are you frightened? You should be; 2020 is going to be the year of the breach. From election devices, cloud, videos, and edge computing, nothing will be safe from hackers. The silver lining? This will open many an eye to the fact that serious security measures must be taken; otherwise, the breaches will never end.

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