Mobile and IoT to Dominate Cybersecurity Threats for 2016

01/08/2016 01:39 pm ET Updated Jan 08, 2017

2015 brought with it a heightened global focus on cybersecurity, with record-breaking data breaches and concern around national security increasingly seen across the headlines. With the recent uptick in breaches, perhaps more than ever, consumers are realizing the ways in which the industry intersects their everyday lives. Whether they like it or not, consumers have a new appetite for understanding cybersecurity, as data breaches and identity theft have become a fact of life.

As we head into 2016, issues in cybersecurity will only continue to gain momentum. Let's hone in on the trends we anticipate to dominate this year.

All Eyes on Mobile
The rising popularity of mobile payments-no doubt due in part to major mobile players like Apple, Android, and financial institutions like Chase-has made mobile a more attractive target than ever for cyber criminals. We've also seen mobile attacks become simpler than ever to implement. Just one example of this: the recent iOS text crash, where hackers infected victims just by sending a MMS (multimedia message) to their device. In 2016, we'll see a rise in these simply orchestrated, yet increasingly impactful attacks on mobile devices.

Macs No Longer Immune to Attack
Apple devices, once seemingly impossible to penetrate, will become the victim of heightened focus from cyber criminals as they continue to gain popularity. Last year, we saw hackers obtain access to more than 225,000 Apple accounts on jailbroken iOS devices through the KeyRaider malware. Although these devices were more at risk, as jailbreaking removes security layers provided by Apple, the attack is a nod to the new focus on these products. Consumers will need to exercise increased caution on their Apple devices in 2016 by ensuring they have the most up-to-date software and avoiding downloading materials from untrustworthy sources.

The Dark Web as Marketplace of Ideas Will Exacerbate Reach, Impact
More than ever, we're seeing cyber criminals use the dark web as a platform to share tips and tricks amongst each other, making advanced-level threats and attacks more accessible to general users. With this, we'll also see a rise in younger, less experienced, and also non-traditional cyber criminals orchestrating attacks. The National Crime Agency recently released a report stating that the average age of cyber criminal suspects is just 17 years old.

Malvertising and Drive-by-Downloads Will Increasingly Deceive Users
This year, expect to see a rise in malvertising (malicious advertising) on legitimate and credible websites that are sourced by external adware networks. Taking the shape of what seem to be benign advertisements, these malvertisements will infect users' devices when clicked on. Drive-by downloads, another trend that picked up steam in 2015, will similarly infect users but will require them only to visit a website. More and more of these attacks will be spread by MMS, as we saw with the KeyRaider malware.

Internet of Things Players Will Need to Prioritize Security
The Internet of Things (IoT) isn't a new topic, but it's one that has certainly gained momentum last year. Our Chief Innovation Officer Adam Tyler recently weighed in with his thoughts on where IoT security is headed in our latest podcast episode. The topic was brought into the spotlight with this year's demonstrations showing how hackers could gain access to a car's steering, brakes, and other vital features by hacking through in-car entertainment systems. In 2016, developers will need to make security a priority as more and more connected devices are brought to market. Seemingly innocuous devices (think: connected refrigerators) can serve as a pathway into a user's most sensitive information. We'll see an increasing focus on the security of the IoT, which may cause a shift in priorities at the product development level.

While cyber criminals continue to sharpen their skills and attacks become more and more sophisticated in 2016 and beyond, consumers will need to exercise more caution on their digital devices. The good news is that even taking small steps-like enabling two-factor authentication whenever possible, and not reusing passwords across multiple sites-can play a major role in keeping consumers safe. We should acknowledge the threats around us and remain keenly aware of developments in cybercrime, but also recognize that it's in our hands to keep our digital identities secure.