Cybersecurity in 2024: The Threats and the Solutions


The cybersecurity landscape continually changes, with threats becoming more sophisticated each year. Building on our previous insights in Navigating Cybersecurity in 2023, this article explores the crucial threats and emerging solutions in cybersecurity for 2024 that businesses must be aware of to enhance their security posture. The following anecdote will illustrate how scary the present landscape has become.

A company Finance Manager, let’s call him Henrik, received a phone call one day that he thought came from his bank. The voice on the other end of the line sounded surprisingly human and informed him that suspicious behaviour had been observed on his business account.

Henrik, whose caution had often protected him from potential threats, was stunned by the level of detail in the voice. It described transactions that had actually taken place, adding to the credibility. The AI system behind the call was programmed to mimic one of the bank’s customer service agents, including the dialect and the rhythm of the conversation, making it even harder to detect the fraud. The service agent informed him that he would receive an SMS code, which he would need to give to the agent.

Fortunately, Henrik had recently attended a security training course where he learned the importance of calling the organisation directly via official numbers to verify such calls. When he did so, the bank confirmed that they had not called him and that no suspicious activity had been observed on his account. It was a valuable lesson on the importance of being constantly on guard against scams, especially those that use the latest technology to create a false sense of security.

Some Cybersecurity statistics

Ransomware

In 2023, the U.S. witnessed a severe escalation in ransomware incidents, reversing a brief decline observed in 2022. According to the FBI, the reported cases surged to 2,825, an 18% increase from the previous year. Financially, the impact was even worse, with reported losses jumping 74% compared with 2022. Cybercriminals have been refining their strategies, including deploying multiple ransomware variants against individual targets and employing data-destruction techniques. These methods intensify pressure on victims, compelling them to negotiate. While these figures are specific to the U.S., the trends in ransomware are likely mirrored in the rest of the world, reflecting a broader global challenge in cybersecurity.

Phishing Attacks

In 2023, phishing schemes were the most commonly reported type of cybercrime. These schemes typically involve unsolicited emails, texts, and phone calls that falsely claim to be from reputable companies to solicit personal, financial, and login details. Over the year, more than 298,000 complaints regarding phishing were recorded in the US, constituting about 34% of all cybercrime complaints. Within the jurisdiction of the FBI’s San Francisco division, 364 of these complaints resulted in nearly $1.5 million in financial losses. While Santa Clara County reported the highest number of these incidents, Alameda County experienced the most significant economic impact, with losses nearing $500,000.

IoT Vulnerabilities

IoT malware attacks have surged dramatically, experiencing a 400% increase since 2022, as highlighted in a recent report by ZScaler. This rise is linked to the broader adoption of IoT devices across various sectors, with manufacturing emerging as the primary target. The popularity of IoT devices in both industrial and consumer markets has inevitably expanded the attack surface for cybercriminals who exploit legacy vulnerabilities—those existing for more than three years are mainly targeted.

The report notes that 34 of the 39 most common IoT exploits focus on these older security gaps. The education sector has also seen a significant increase in attacks, with a staggering 961% rise over the past year. Most of these attacks were concentrated in Mexico and the United States, accounting for 69.3% of IoT cyberattacks. These malware attacks’ escalating frequency and mobility pose a growing threat, particularly to operational technology (OT) security, which could be compromised across different networks. To combat these risks, ZScaler advocates for implementing zero-trust architecture principles to enhance visibility and control over IoT devices, urging continuous discovery and monitoring to prevent unauthorized access and lateral movement within networks.

Emerging Trends and Solutions

The following are some current threats mentioned in a report by SoSafe. I have also mentioned some threats from other sources.

  1. AI’s Growing Role in Cyberattacks: Artificial intelligence is expected to play an increasingly significant role in cybersecurity. The full impact of generative AI on cybersecurity has yet to be seen, signalling a critical area for future developments.
  2. Social Engineering Using Generative AI: The rise of generative AI has significantly escalated the sophistication and frequency of social engineering attacks. See more below.
  3. Beyond AI: Cybercriminals are anticipated to exploit quantum computing and 5G technologies. These new technologies provide advanced capabilities that could be manipulated maliciously. Also, with the advancement of quantum computing, traditional encryption methods are becoming obsolete. Transitioning to quantum-resistant algorithms is essential to protect digital assets from future threats posed by quantum capabilities.
  4. Professionalisation of Cybercrime: Cybercrime is becoming more structured and profitable, transforming into a sophisticated business. This professionalisation means cybercriminals are developing more systematic methods to carry out their activities. The accessibility of sophisticated cybercrime tools through Cybercrime as a Service (CaaS) platforms exacerbates the threat landscape. Integrating advanced threat detection and comprehensive backup and recovery strategies is essential to counter this trend.
  5. Digital Dissent: The rise of hacktivism is evident as global unrest fuels a surge in cybercrime and misinformation. This trend reflects how cybercriminals and hacktivists use tumultuous times to advance their agendas, often impacting the public sector and critical infrastructure.
  6. Disinformation-as-a-Service (DaaS) is emerging as a critical tool in the hackers’ arsenal. It is used to destabilise organisations and spread misinformation, making it a significant threat to global stability.
  7. Challenges for Various Sectors: Due to the increasing complexity and frequency of cyber attacks, 2024 is expected to bring heightened security challenges, especially for the public sector and critical infrastructure.
  8. Supply Chain attacks: The digital interconnectedness of supply chains introduces significant risks. To secure the supply chain, it is crucial to extend cybersecurity measures beyond immediate operations.
  9. Pretexting and Multichannel Tactics: Cyberattacks are becoming more realistic and dangerous through pretexting and multiple communication channels. These tactics enhance the effectiveness of social engineering attacks.
  10. Rising Burnout Rates: Cybersecurity teams face unprecedented challenges, including high burnout rates, which may affect one’s capacity to effectively defend against and respond to cyber threats.

Impersonation with Generative AI

This area is so important to cover, that we have not only listed it above. Cybercriminals can now easily create compelling and realistic narratives using publicly available data by leveraging AI. This technology enables them to impersonate voices accurately, including those of family members or colleagues, by accessing existing voice recordings. This heightens the deception, making it increasingly challenging to verify identities.

To counter these threats, it is crucial to adopt stringent verification practices, such as calling back on verified numbers to confirm the person’s authenticity on the other end. Additionally, always exercise scepticism when contacted by an unfamiliar number and avoid sharing personal information (even if it sounds as if it is someone you know). If doubts persist, providing incorrect details can be a strategy to test the caller’s legitimacy. For instance, if you refer to a past interaction that the actual person should know to be false, their reaction can reveal their true intentions. This new era of AI-driven social engineering underscores the need for heightened caution and proactive measures in our digital interactions. A typical example is someone you know sending a message via SMS or calls, saying that their phone was stolen, so they must use someone else’s phone. The person desperately needs money (often not a very big amount).

Regulatory Compliance

Adherence to new cybersecurity legislation, such as the NIS2 Directive and the Cyber Resilience Act in the EU, is vital in a European context. Businesses must assess and tailor their practices to meet these standards, ensuring compliance and addressing security gaps.

The Swedish Context

Sweden, the sixth most attacked European country and the second most innovative country globally, faces unique challenges. The high-trust society might lead to naivety regarding cyber threats. Similar to Finland’s experience, an increase in cyberattacks is expected with the recent NATO membership.

Businesses must stay informed and implement robust security measures. Advancing security technologies, fostering cybersecurity awareness, and ensuring regulatory compliance are pivotal in mitigating the effects of cyber threats.

Conclusion

The cybersecurity landscape is dynamic and requires continuous adaptation. Small—and medium-sized companies must prioritise their cybersecurity strategies to protect against these evolving threats and integrate solutions that will fortify their defences in the long term.

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