2024 is shaping up to be a year of significant challenges and opportunities for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) as they navigate the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape. With new technologies and digital transformation initiatives on the rise, it’s crucial for CISOs to stay ahead of the curve and proactively address emerging threats.
In 2024 the cyber threat landscape continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Between surging ransomware, supply chain compromises and new attack vectors emerging, organizations must remain vigilant to protect themselves. Recent research and expert perspectives reveal several notable ways the threat environment is shifting – and recommend priority areas CISOs should focus defense efforts on over the next 12 months.
Ransomware Morphing from “Double Extortion” to Faster Smash-and-Grab
Ransomware skyrocketed in recent years, with attackers stealing sensitive data before launching follow-on extortion ransomware campaigns to encrypt files. Security experts note this “double extortion” approach now shifting more towards quicker smash-and-grab attacks focused exclusively on data theft.
Why the change? Encrypting many systems with ransomware takes significant time and work. Attackers may fail halfway through if ransomware gets detected first, foiling the blackmail plan. Stealing data directly provides similar extortion leverage for less effort while reducing likelihood of early detection. Expect smash-and-grab ransomware data breaches to accelerate in 2024, even as traditional ransomware campaigns continue due to their proven profitability.
Guarding against this requires continued focus on ransomware prevention fundamentals – keeping systems patched and layered defenses configured for early detection. But visibility into data access patterns can also reveal unusual extraction activity indicative of smash-and-grab theft. Maintaining rigorous data backups disconnected from production infrastructure provides insurance as well.
Mercenary Spyware Targeting Expanding
State-sponsored groups apparently find it increasingly efficient to outsource cyber intrusions to private contractors. This trend includes targeting cloud services firms and mobile device spyware operators to access downstream victims.
Predatory spyware products surfaced in 2023 that covertly monitor devices to extract secrets, messages and contacts. While marketed for legitimate law enforcement use, these tools often get abused to illegally surveil critics, journalists and regular citizens. Expect the commercial spyware industry to expand further globally despite ethical concerns.
For organizations, separating corporate and personal devices among staff at higher risk of individual targeting is advised where feasible. For individuals, keeping phones patched and avoiding clicking sketchy links partially mitigates infection risks. Ultimately however legislative bans on selling spyware technology to state actors may be needed to curtail the spread of what amounts to mercenary surveillance.
Shoring Up Cloud Configs and Network Gear
Misconfigurations and vulnerable network appliances like routers remain attractive targets. Attackers breaching just one neglected device can achieve network access to pivot towards more critical cloud assets.
In 2024 security teams should revisit access policies across infrastructure components just as they would for cloud servers and storage. Identity and access management (IAM) should lock down component access to least privileged roles. Micro segmentation also contains damage from compromised devices by isolating infrastructure across separate trust zones.
The shared responsibility model still applies as well – cloud providers secure the cloud itself, while organizations must lock down their deployed workloads. Following baseline practices around patching, IAM, logging and 2-factor authentication continues making cloud assets harder to breach.
Retiring Technical Debt Holding Back Security Programs
Migrating legacy systems to the cloud often expands attack surfaces due to organizations incorrectly assuming cloud infrastructure automatically confers security. However research suggests newer and more agile businesses may actually have advantages in avoiding technical debt and building modern security architectures correctly from scratch.
For CISOs stuck with technical debt in 2024, buying new tools alone rarely compensates for compromised foundations. Some focused efforts like enhancing logging, improving API security and segmenting networks can help compensate. But ultimately, gradually retiring aging systems in favor of more secure modern replacements may prove the most effective long term approach.
An Unfolding Game of Cat and Mouse
Cybersecurity remains a constantly evolving game of cat and mouse. Attackers continue honing social engineering, finding new exploitation vectors and devising crafty monetization schemes. But defenses also improve across tools, operations and staff skills. While risks are always present, overwhelming optimism nor despair proves warranted when assessing organizational security postures.
Threat actors are constantly changing and improving their attack strategy with particular emphasis on the application of AI-driven techniques in the attack process, called AI-based cyber attack, which can be used in conjunction with conventional attack techniques to cause greater damage. Despite several studies on AI and security, but AI-based cyber attacks enough to be able to understand the adversary’s actions and to develop proper defenses against such attacks. Aim to explore existing studies of AI-based cyber attacks and to map them onto a proposed framework, providing insight into new threats.
With vigilance and patience, collective defenses will gradually improve by making each small gain cumulative. For 2024 the name of the game for defenders remains maintaining focus on the security basics, studying threat intelligence to understand latest adversary tactics and tooling up to shift defenses as the landscape changes. Progress requires persistence – but the journey continues moving forward one step at a time.