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Cyber security predictions for 2020

December 2019 by Rob Norris, VP Head of Enterprise & Cyber Security EMEIA at Fujitsu

Here’s a bold prediction for 2020 that I’m absolutely certain will be 100% correct: there will be more, and more complex, cyber security attacks next year, and we should expect an escalation of the ‘arms race’ between CISOs and cybercriminals. Let’s break down the big picture of an intensifying arms race into specific observations – our cyber security predictions for 2020.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will need real security

Although many have predicted that AI is the so-called silver bullet that will put an end to cyber-crime, once and for all, I have also identified a paradox, which is the surprising lack of focus on the security of AI itself. This, I predict, will change in 2020.

AI security is a problem because AI models are still fairly insecure, and therefore vulnerable to attack. An adversarial approach could look like a malicious hacker intervening in the training process of an AI. For example, an AI learning to recognise cats could be tricked into believing that an image of a dog was also a cat: an exploit that could later be leveraged.

It is also possible to extract parts of an AI model, leading to intellectual property theft, as well as the ability to craft “adversarial” AI that could manipulate the intended model.

Currently, it is hard to detect and remediate these attacks. I think it is highly likely we will see a shift towards research in this area, with a greater focus on explainable and accountable AI, which would allow for human response and remediation on what are currently black-box models.

Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) is a real game-changer

One cyber security technology that is making significant forward strides is SOAR (Security Orchestration, Automation and Response) – a term first coined by the research firm Gartner. It is a solution stack that allows an organisation to collect data about security threats from multiple sources and respond to low-level security events without human assistance. In Fujitsu’s view, 2020 is the year when early adopters will see the business benefits of these technologies as the threat landscape continues to expand.

It has taken a while for SOAR to be understood and adopted, but the business benefits are tangible. At a granular level, the correct adoption of SOAR helps organisations map, understand and improve their business processes. By making correct use of their technology stack and associated APIs, early adopters will get faster and enhanced reporting and be enabled to improve their security posture through the reduction of Mean Time To Respond (MTTR) to threats that could impact their reputation, operations and bottom-line.

Cloud adoption expands the unknown threat landscape

Cloud adoption is a proven response for organisations seeking simplification of their environment and this potentially applies to security as well. In 2020, as the adoption of cloud services grows, CISOs will need to play catch up to properly to get to grips with changing risk profiles in areas such as the cloud.

Despite the many operational, business and commercial benefits to organisations, we predict that in 2020, many CISOs will still be trying to fully understand the risks to their business that are brought by the transition to cloud-based services, plus new data flows, data storage and new services.

Boundaries and control of services in traditional networks are typically very well understood. However, the velocity and momentum of cloud adoption services leaves CISOs with unanswered questions. Issues around container security, cloud storage, cloud sharing applications, identity theft and vulnerabilities are yet to be understood, or even exposed.

Raising the standard for managing identities and access

The continuing adoption of hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructures and a ‘cloud-first’ attitude increases the challenge of managing the expanding bundle of associated identities and credentials across any organisation. Capabilities such as Federated Authentication, Single Sign-On and Adaptive Multi-Factor address the challenge of balance between security and usability, and in 2020, we predict that the use of these controls will become standard, if not required, practice.

Identities and associated credentials are the key attack vector in a data breach – they are ‘keys to the kingdom’. Without sufficient controls, especially for those with privileged rights, it will become increasingly difficult for organisations to securely manage identities and mitigate the risk of a data breach.

Passwords will become a thing of the past

Finally, the news we have all been waiting for: 2020 we will finally be the year we move away from old-fashioned password management practices to password-less technologies. To get there will involve increasing adoption of end-to-end password-less access, especially in scenarios where Privileged Access Management (PAM) is required.

The shift is being driven by the increasing number of cases where privileged credentials and passwords are required, but are painful to manage in secure and cost effective. Passwords are easy to forget and the increasing complexity requirements placed upon users increases the chances of passwords having to be written down – which is self-defeating. Biometric technologies and ephemeral certificates will provide a more secure and user-friendly way to manage credentials and ensure assets and data are kept secure.

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