My Top 5 Predictions for 2015

Predicting the future is almost impossible especially with such a fast evolving topic like cybersecurity. Nevertheless I’ll give it a try and share some of my thoughts with you.

I had a lot of chats with CIOs, CEOs and COOs as well as journalists talking about what we all see what our biggest fears are and what they and I expect to see in the near future.

Here are my thoughts about theTop 5 challenges our world will face in 2015. Just in case you would like to add something feel free to drop me a line and I will add your thoughts / comments promptly.

Top 1: Rent-A-Botnet
As we all saw in the past that botnets seem easy to rent (1.000 for some 100 USD down to 10 USD for an hour accesstime) the service quality is dramatically increasing while prices are decreasing. The service quality is key to the evolution of this market. When selling services to the “normal” world credentials are important. Selling services on the dark side means that delivering cybercrime services is only possible when having top credentials and a hard proof of delivery and 100% reliability. These requirements drive service quality enhancements that even lead to service desk support with your rented bot net, customization support and other services most people can hardly imagine when talking about a crime scene. We even see that targeted attacks lead to new customer creation efforts. An example is that DDoS targets sometimes receive blackmail eMails with 3 key messages:


1.      Pay the fee to avoid DDoS attacks leading to unavailability of your services

2.      Do not contact any cybersecurity specialist to defend your services because this will lead to a dramatical increase in bots attacking you

3.      Order your own botnet attack against attackers and you will receive a discount of 20-40%

Top 2: Industry 4.0
Industry 4.0 discussions very often end up in security concerns. On one hand companies fear that SCADA systems, PLCs and Industry devices could come under fire. This is a serious concern and it is very realistic when considering that a lot of industry devices are not hardened but connected to office networks having no virus scanners and very often being protected by firewalls having more communication exceptions than limitations.

Imagine that in combination with IP V6 internet structures become more stable and reliable and your refrigerator, lightbulb or industry roboter is infected and becomes part of a botnet or is in other ways involved in cybercriminal activities.

Top 3: Data Destruction
2014 ended up with a huge security incident at Sony pictures. We saw problems at Sony companies before like the PSN hack. Nevertheless the hack shows a new quality in cyberattacks. It became very common to hack companies and to leak information as a “proof of hack” to make the cybercriminal business plan work. During this hack we saw that users couldn’t use their workstations any more and data destruction seemed to be part of the game. Also in other security incidents we became aware of the fact that data loss is common but data manipulation and data destruction become even more serious and are on the rise.

Top 4: Supply Chain Security
In the past we already recognized the supply chain security seems to be important but the headlines have not been filled with stories about companies being attacked using supply chain connections. One of the most remarkable stories has been the virus problem on Predator and Reaper drones in 2011. Other hacks we saw in 2014 demonstrated that very often companies rely on their security measures like firewalls, awareness trainings, encryption and so forth. But as we all know is the strength of a chain determined by the weakest link which is very often a supplier. A “good” example is the “Target” breach where Fazio Mechanical, an air condition and heating maintenance company, was compromised. As we all know for various investigation reports on Targets incident the attack on their supplier seemed to be high sophisticated.

With research on this topic we see this threat on the rise and being more and more successful.

Top 5: Mobile Device Exploit Kits 
Years ago mobile devices have been pretty safe. But with the trend showing that mobile devices may replace notebooks and “thick clients” in general Exploit kit developers seem to start focussing on mobile device exploit kits. The mobile world seems to know several Operating Systems but in the end these are only 3 (IOS, Windows and Android). At least IOS shows only few variants – users keep their IOS up to date so that creating one exploit kit has a huge impact in the user community. Also with spyware for smartphones increasingly being thrown on the market a baseline software repository to duplicate calls, copy WhatsApp conversations as well as SMS messages is available. The step from “legal spyware” (in Germany it is not legal but in other jurisdictions its use is pretty common) to an exploit kit is pretty small.

Right now effective antivirus and other prevention software is hard to find and only few users even care about this problem leads to millions of vulnerable devices being in the focus of cybercriminals.

Security – A Misleading Concept?

Currently I am creating a presentation on cyber security as a competitive advantage. It looked like a simple task, but ….

When building a presentation I feel that the content should be meaningful. Starting to think about a good starting point, the fundamentals I need/want to transport and a good starting point i thought it would be a good idea to start with a definition of cyber security.

Defining both words, Cyber and Security I found a definition which is a little bit strange but it was taken from William Gibson’s Novel 1984:

„Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts… A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.“ 

Source for the artwork: http://hqwide.com/wallpapers/l/1920×1080/61/artwork_neuromancer_william_gibson_1920x1080_60671.jpg

Another one I found good and better suitable for business purposes was given by the university of maryland

The interdependent network of information technology infrastructures, that includes the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems and embedded processors and controllers.

Source: http://www.umuc.edu/cybersecurity/about/cybersecurity-basics.cfm

I believe this one has a better fit for purpose. Nevertheless it gives a limited view on security issues. Cyberspace is meant to be digitally. But what does that mean related to intellectual property that people have. Information written or printed on paper. Proof of concepts doming from a machine and so on. Short story: What is the representation of non digital Information? From what I found non digital information is not covered by the term “cyber”!

What is the better term to provide a holistic view on security?

To be honest: I didn’t find one. Information is written on paper, stored in brains, computers. Sometimes it is tangible, sometimes not. Sometimes it is related to buildings and other forms that might represent information or a value. The next question deriving from these thoughts:

Is there anything of value that is not related to information?

If you find something please tell me!

Security in general is meant to be a concept that implies protection from harm to any asset.

That is also the reason why we find numerous security functions in enterprises:

  • Corporate security
  • Facility security
  • Information security
  • IT security
  • Cyber Security
  • Data protection

When talking to clients about their security functions I very often hear that there is a wish to add new skills to the organization to cover new threats! When doing this organizations tend to look for reasonable compromises which are more likely to be trade offs. Usually existing structures are maintained (e.g. the IT Security Officer) and new functions like a Cyber Security Department is added to the organization with newly defined responsibilities and different reporting lines.

Looking at the cyber definition again the conflict is obvious! IT security deals with infrastructures. The information protection officer deals with information stored anywhere and the Cyber Security Defense Service feels extremely hip because it is something new, really important having excellent budget and sits on the territory of the CISO, IT SecOfficer and others.

I started to write down where security applies and found numbers of issues and security functions. Most of them have an overlap which I feel that it is ok.

Detection is the new Prevention

In another article I already presented my view on Detection versus Prevention. I believe Detection is key! A huge misunderstanding is that looking at the concept of security the spotlight is on prevention. This might be true but detection is the new prevention. In order to avoid harm to your organization you need to know your enemy and be prepared against almost everything that can happen. You will have to accept hackers to jump into your networks and you will need to be prepared to detect them and fix the damage asap.

What happens here: It is RESILIENCE!

Organizations need to be better prepared to fix security incidents no matter if they are related to buildings, employes, VIPs, IT infrastructure, paper based information etc.

When I came to this conclusion I felt that any security function in an organization is an important feature. It is preventive feature. It helps to detect issues. But recovery from incidents will be more important than we have ever believed.

I feel that a Business Resilience Function in any organization is the key to eliminate conflicts between different security functions and helps to align them to a powerful organization helping with prevention, detection and recovery!

What do you think? I do not know if I am right or wrong! I am really interested to read your views on this! Please share your thoughts with me and the rest of the community!