Rising cyber security threats to worry about

As technology advance, so does cyber security threats and the sophistication of attacks. The usual suspects like traditional malware phishing and ransomware are ever-present and growing in extent, but there are also some new attack vectors on the rise.

The rapid deployment of connected devices such as smart appliances and sensors is also becoming a cyber security concern. SonicWall report a 77% increase in IoT attacks in the first half of 2022. With the expansion of IoT, security risks also grow. IoT vendors are notorious for implementing little to no security on their devices.

This is because, as they are often not used to store sensitive data directly, manufacturers haven’t always been focused on keeping them secure with frequent security patches and updates. That has changed recently, as it’s been shown that even when they don’t store data themselves, attackers can often find ways to use them as gateways to access other networked devices that might.

By 2023, analysts at Gartner predict, there will be 43 billion IoT-connected devices in the world, and every connected device should be treated as a potential attack vector and vulnerability.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are inevitably to become an integral part of all our digital lives. McKinsey estimates the global impact of AI and Machine learning to amount to somewhere between 10 – 15 trillion USD.

Artificial intelligence (AI) may be opening up new opportunities and markets for businesses of all sizes, but also opens up new opportunities for malicious usage. Cybercriminals are already identified as one of those opportunities to play the system through a process called data poisoning.

This is performed by somehow injecting corrupted data, or somehow influencing the data used to train machine learning models in a sense that over time produces false outcomes.

Technologies including autocomplete, chatbots, spam filters, intrusion detection systems, financial fraud prevention, and even medical diagnostic tools are all susceptible to data poisoning attacks as they make use of online training or continuous-learning models.

As an example, they can do a lot just by changing data for a recommendation engine. From there, they can get someone to download a malware app or click on an infected link.

Another potential threat is a way to circumvent biometric identity verification by tampering with the underlying machine learning algorithms. A facial recognition system used for authentication might be manipulated to permit anyone wearing a specific pair of glasses to be classified as any correct user.

And don’t even get me started on the potential threats and fraud risks in the metaverse. Regardless of how the metaverse will play out, the fact is that corporations, governments, brands, creators, and early adopters are exploring the platforms. While they may differ as stakeholders, their risk profiles are somewhat similar, depending on the definition of the metaverse.

Common for all definitions of the metaverse, identity is a central component, and identity theft and profile hijacking may have wide-reaching consequences, particularly if said identity is portable and interoperable across various metaverse platforms as metaverse evangelists are proposing.  

In the VR/AR/XR version of the metaverse, the physical world and the digital world become more integrated. This proposes a new set of risks where the distinction between cyber and physical gets wiped out.

Among the most disconcerting of the potential cybersecurity threats in the metaverse is the risk of biometric hacking. Because the metaverse functions through VR/AR, users will need to wear VR headsets and, potentially, other VR/AR technologies, such as haptic gloves, thus be able to gain access to sensitive data regarding users’ physical conditions.

The immersive environment of the metaverse may also put end users’ physical safety in the offline world at risk as well. For example, if a hacker takes control of someone’s account, then they may be able to manipulate what their avatar sees, hears, and does in the virtual space.

In the web3 version of the metaverse, the list of potential exploits and attack vectors is never-ending. The blog Web 3 Is Doing Just Great has put together a comprehensive timeline of the most prominent web3 hacks and exploits, and the reading is abysmal.

According to blockchain risk monitoring firm Solidus Labs, the web3 space is seeing a significant amount of smart contract scams proliferating, with an average of 15 newly deployed scams every hour.

As a result, billions have been siphoned, or downright stolen from users in various web3 platforms through hacks, scams, and pyramid schemes in disguise.

Regardless of the technology, cyber security is at the end of the day an arms race, and the line of defense is only as good as access to skillsets and talent.

A shortage of cyber security professionals is a challenge for both corporations and nation-states. The need to invest in cyber security expertise, both diverse and specialized should be a top priority for both policymakers and IT departments.

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