For the year 2023, can we predict what new and emerging cybersecurity threats individuals, businesses, and governments are going to face? How can we prepare for such threats and what tools can be used to combat them?
With technological advancements promoting heightened reliance on the cyber realm for personal, business, and governmental activities, cybersecurity is becoming increasingly enmeshed within everyday life. Hence, we must be able to confront emerging security and privacy threats.
To better prepare individuals and organisations against the most relevant cybersecurity threats, Trilateral Research works with partners across the EU to combine our technical, legal, and social science expertise and identify, prevent, and mitigate the impact of cybersecurity and privacy threats.
Based on this work, which includes our work in the TRUST AWARE project, we have compiled the top four cybersecurity threats to continue watching throughout 2023.
1. Social Engineering Threats
Social engineering threats are cybersecurity threats which rely primarily on human vulnerabilities. Through social manipulation and trickery, a criminal aims to convince users to complete an action that will allow the attacker access to sensitive data or to a system. These actions can involve clicking on a malicious link or downloading a malicious file. As remote working and hybrid corporate environments remain prevalent post-pandemic, the number of phishing threats is likely to continue increasing. Further, attackers are becoming more convincing thanks to the advancement of deepfake technology and the increasing exploitation of international volatility within phishing schemes.
Education and knowledge sharing are prerequisites to enabling users to better understand, control, detect and respond to social engineering threats. Consistent information security training, including specialised training for employees with specific information security responsibilities, is a key tool in mitigating the cybersecurity threat currently posed by social engineering tactics.
2. Malware and Ransomware
Malware and Ransomware continue to remain major cybersecurity threats throughout 2023. Malware refers to malicious code that is used by hackers to destroy, gain access to, or steal data. Malware can originate from a variety of sources including spam emails, website downloads and malicious files. Ransomware is a form of malware which encrypts data and demands that the company pay a ‘ransom’ to decrypt it. Whilst Ransomware is often directed towards large companies, it is increasingly being targeted towards vital infrastructure such as the healthcare sector where the resultant damage could be devastating. Additionally, malware and ransomware are likely to play a crucial role in state-sponsored, cyber warfare. So, economic and geopolitical factors will continue to have a growing influence on the need for cybersecurity protections.
To tackle malware and ransomware as a cybersecurity threat, end-point protection should be the focus. ‘End-point’ refers to the physical device, for example a laptop or mobile phone, which is connected to the network system. To prevent malicious actors from attacking vulnerable end-points, organisations should invest in vulnerability scanning as well as penetration testing. Vulnerability scanning identifies vulnerabilities in a system before external threats can take advantage of them whilst penetration test complements this process, exploiting vulnerabilities found through the scanning process and simulating an attack by the actors who pose a cybersecurity threat. By testing potential malware and ransomware in this manner, organisations can reduce their potential attack surface and enhance their internal security processes.
3. Cybercrimes involving mobile phones
Due to hybridised working and lower vigilance regarding mobile security, 2022 witnessed a 22% increase in cybercrimes involving mobile phones.  With individual’s banking and work data all stored in one place, unprotected mobile phones remain a hacker’s daydream. Fake apps have been able to infiltrate app stores, manipulating users into downloading malware or granting excessive permissions. Genuine apps also pose potential privacy problems. Many apps’ privacy policies are long, boring, and sometimes purposefully confusing, leaving users unaware of the personal data collected and shared by their mobile apps. Additionally, android apps often rely on the functionality of third-party libraries. Third party libraries limit the costs of app development by providing a host app with additional functionality through reusable software, developed by an external body. Yet, due to the lack of privilege isolation within Android apps, these third-party libraries have the same ‘privileges’ that the host app has. This means that the third-party libraries have the same access to user’s data and permissions as the host apps, without the user’s consent.
As with malware and ransomware threats, the operational risk posed by information systems like mobile applications can be mitigated through security pen testing to identify weaknesses and potential threats. Additionally, organisations should undertake to ensure ongoing monitoring and assurance as well as training to employees regarding mobile safety and security.
4. Data Breaches and Leaks Involving the Cloud
Lastly, breaches and leaks of data stored on the Cloud are expected to pose a major cybersecurity threat throughout 2023. Many businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on cloud-based services to store data that is potentially sensitive and confidential. This data can be attacked in numerous ways, including through the social engineering and malware attacks outlined above. Further, with users often using easily guessed passwords or the same password across multiple different accounts, poor password habits can allow hackers to gain access to sensitive data.
To tackle the mounting threat to business data stored on the Cloud, organisations should take advantage of data protection assessment services as well as regular documentation review to ensure compliance with data retention, storage, and sharing standards.
To provide comprehensive cybersecurity services to organisations, Trilateral combines the thought leadership of our Innovation and Research Team with the cybersecurity advisory experience of our Data Protection and Cyber-risk Team. Our cybersecurity services include Risk Management and Reduction Services, Security Awareness Training, Vulnerability Scanning, Penetration Testing, and Compliance Support.
For more information on how Trilateral can assist with maturing your organisation’s cybersecurity and data protection compliance posture, please feel free to contact our advisers.