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New Cyber ‘Cold War’ on the Horizon, Check Point Report Warns

Dominique Adams

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check point

2020 will see a rise in nation-state sponsored cyber-attacks against governments and critical infrastructure as international tensions increase, according to researchers. 

Highly targeted ransomware, increasingly sophisticated mobile malware, and a steep rise in the volume cyber attacks on high-profile businesses are among the predictions for 2020’s cyber threats.

Leading cybersecurity software firm, Check Point, which has just unveiled its global cybersecurity predictions for 2020, suggests we could be on the brink of a cyber ‘cold war’.

Check Point’s researchers anticipate cyberattacks will escalate in a number of ways over the coming year and will have a major impact on both society and business.

The report suggests that 2020 will usher in a new ‘Cold War’ that will take place online as Western and Eastern powers increasingly separate their technologies and intelligence. “The ongoing trade war between the US and China, and the decoupling of the two huge economies is a clear indicator of this,” the report states.

Cyberattacks will increasingly be used as proxy conflicts between smaller countries, funded and enabled by large nations looking to consolidate and extend their spheres of influence, as seen in the recent cyber operations against Iran in the wake of attacks on Saudi Arabian oil facilities.

The report warns of ‘fake news 2.0’, which it says overseas groups have already made and are implementing plans to influence the coming 2020 US elections.

The trend towards cyberattacks on utilities and critical infrastructures will continue to grow next year. Critical power and water distribution infrastructure that uses older technology is particularly at risk of remote exploitation. The report urges nations to look at “radically” strengthening their infrastructure cyber defences.

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In terms of technical attack predictions, the report highlights three main areas; targeted ransomware, mobile malware and the spread of phishing onto other platforms.

This year saw ransomware used increasingly against specific businesses, local government and healthcare organisations, with attackers spending more time intelligence gathering. Attacks have become so damaging that the FBI has softened its stance on not paying ransoms.

The researchers predict this will drive organisations to take out insurance policies against ransomware, which will also increase attackers’ ransom demands.

Cybercriminals are taking their phishing attacks beyond email and are now using a variety of other attack vectors to scam their victims. The report predicts phishing attacks will progressively involve SMS texting attacks against mobiles or the use of messaging on social media and gaming platforms.

The first half of 2019 saw a 50% increase in attacks by mobile banking malware compared to 2018. This malware can steal payment data, credentials and funds from victims’ bank accounts, and new versions are available for widespread distribution by anyone that’s willing to pay the malware’s developers. Phishing attacks will also become more sophisticated and effective, luring mobile users to click on malicious web links, according to the report.

Check Point’s founder and CEO, Gil Shwed said: “As our societies increasingly rely on seamless always-on connectivity, criminals and nation-state threat actors have even more opportunities to influence the outcomes of political events or cause massive disruption and damage that puts thousands of lives at risk.

“Attacks are constantly increasing: over the past year, Check Point’s ThreatCloud blocked nearly 90 billion compromise attempts per day – compared with an estimated six billion daily searches on Google.”

Shwed added: “We can no longer defend ourselves using traditional detection-based security models: by the time we detect the threat, the damage has already been done. We need to automatically block these advanced new Gen V attacks and prevent them disrupting the systems we rely on, using Gen V security that combines real-time threat prevention, shared intelligence and advanced protections across all networks, cloud and mobile deployments.”

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Dominique Adams

Marketing Content Manager, Trickle

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