7 InfoSec Predictions For 2014: Good, Bad & Ugly - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
News
Commentary
1/3/2014
11:30 AM
100%
0%

7 InfoSec Predictions For 2014: Good, Bad & Ugly

First, the bad news: Windows XP doomsday, escalating ransomware, botnet-driven attacks, emerging SDN threats. The good news: Threat intelligence goes mainstream.

Predicting the future, of course, is impossible. But based on the dynamic events I've witnessed in information security this past year -- new adversaries, attack techniques, and increased adoption of such emerging technologies as software-defined networking -- here are seven security trends I’ll be watching closely in 2014.

1. Doomsday for Windows XP
Come April 2014, Microsoft will stop releasing new patches for Windows XP. But from the attackers' standpoint, the real fun will start in May, when Microsoft patches all versions of Windows since Windows XP. When that happens, security experts predict a hack-attack field day, since -- just like Java -- attackers can reverse-engineer the new fixes to find exploitable XP vulnerabilities. Cue difficulties for the millions of consumers and businesses that continue to rely on the unsupported operating system.

"One of the biggest challenges ahead for 2014 is clearly coming with Windows XP, and that obviously has a massive impact not only for the systems that are out there, but the systems that are out there that no one knows about," said Gerhard Eschelbeck, chief technology officer of Sophos, speaking by phone. "Who owns fixing those systems or upgrading those systems or ensuring those systems are still secure, in a world where patches are no longer being provided?"

Given the potential harm facing people who still rely on XP, there still might be an end-of-life reprieve. "Microsoft ought to reevaluate and reassess their decision early next year," Eschelbeck speculated, “if it's the right thing to do to 'end of life' support for an operating system that's been as successful as Windows XP has been."

2. Malware: Follow the Money
One no-brainer for 2014 is that malware will continue to target an expanded range of institutions that handle money -- and especially virtual currencies. In late November, for example, a new variant of the Gameover malware was spotted that targeted the log-in credentials for users of BTC China Exchange. That China-based exchange handles 40 percent of the world's trades in the cryptographic currency known as Bitcoins.

Going forward, we can also expect improvements that make latest-generation malware tougher to detect or block. For example, increased use of automated generation of domains for call-backs. According to Sophos' Eschelbeck, these techniques are used by malware writers to ensure that infected nodes can connect to command-and-control (C&C) infrastructure and serve as bots in a botnet. For years, security firms have battled botnets by blacklisting these malicious domains. But as attackers have improved their domain-name-generation algorithms, the tedious, largely manual exercise of blocking malicious domains has grown more difficult.

In addition, attackers have begun using "multiple layers of indirection," Eschelbeck said, which makes it more difficult for researchers to pinpoint exactly how C&C communications are flowing. "The first layer that the malware is going to may not be a bad domain at all," he said, but rather an intermediate but otherwise legitimate waypoint compromised by attackers. The more time and effort it takes security researchers to separate good domains from bad domains, the farther ahead attackers can stay from would-be botnet busters.

3. Ransomware shakedown escalates
The above example wasn't the first foray into new attack territory by the authors of the Gameover malware, which is based on the Zeus financial Trojan. "Gameover has also been involved [with] the dropping of CryptoLocker onto victims," said Sean Sullivan, security advisor at F-Secure Labs, referring to the CryptoLocker ransomware, which encrypts an infected PC, then demands users pay a ransom -- sometimes in bitcoins -- to receive a decryption code.

"Ransomware is pretty fascinating stuff. It's showing how cartel-like this problem has become, how it's really been able to extort money, and how it's been really powerful, from a software perspective, simply by locking down a PC until you pay up," said Carl Herberger, VP of security solutions at Radware, speaking by phone. Furthermore, the attacks continue because victims -- reportedly even including one Massachusetts police department -- continue to pay up.

The same must be true for at least some victims of scareware -- which is malware with all bark and no bite -- as well as other extortion schemes, which in 2013 included criminals threatening to launch distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against business sites, again, unless they paid up.

Expect the scope and combination of these shakedown campaigns to keep expanding in 2014. "If I can take someone down, that's one thing, but if I can extort them for restoring the services when they're down, then they probably have more of a propensity to pay," Herberger said. "I see that being a very big idea that evolves in 2014."

 

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Previous
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
RobPreston
50%
50%
RobPreston,
User Rank: Author
1/9/2014 | 2:42:23 PM
Re: An XP -iration solution for those who cannot afford to upgrade
TerryB, you da man. Thanks for your informed comments.
DDURBIN1
50%
50%
DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/8/2014 | 11:15:20 AM
Re: XP And Security
Brian, everything you say is true but I use XP machines everyday along with 600 million others.  They still do the job they were intended  with absolutely no advantage in migrating their tasks to Win7/Win8.  The infrastructure to support Win7/8 also supports XP.  The need to replace these boxes is when the hardware fails not becuase of the OS.  XP is kind of like a 55 Chevy, a classic that no one gets tired of seeing except Microsoft.
DDURBIN1
50%
50%
DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/7/2014 | 10:22:10 AM
Re: XP And Security

Microsoft has become its own enemy.  Years ago IBM was the inflexible arrogant bureaucratic technology giant that pretty much didn't care what customers thought of its business tactics.  Now Microsoft has taken over that roll.  The only thing that makes a difference is the impact on the bottom line.  Microsoft believes forcing XP usage out of the market is to their bottom line advantage.  I'm betting nothing will change at MS until its too late.  I predict many XP users will migrate to non-windows products.  Its kind of like the days of when Ford and GM didn't care about their customer experience but expected Americans to continue buying from them which they didn't.  Now Ford an GM own less the 50% of the American auto market when they once owned 91%.  I see Apple and Google eating MS for lunch.

Marilyn Cohodas
50%
50%
Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Author
1/7/2014 | 10:13:19 AM
Re: 2014 prediction (and a little bit of a soap box) -- Sharing threat intelligence
How about it. Does anyone believe that 2014 will be the year that sharing threat intelligience goes mainstream? What info about attackers are you willing to share and -- even if you are -- would your exec management be willing to publically disclose that the company has been compromised for the good of the industry? IMO it's not going to happen this year, if ever. 
DDURBIN1
50%
50%
DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/7/2014 | 9:59:32 AM
Re: 2014 prediction (and a little bit of a soap box)
The problem isn't the IT justification process.  I've worked numbers until I'm blue in the face with risk assessment information providing justification beyond any doubt.  It is the bean counting CEO and CFO that choose to ignore these tentant until something happens after which the finger gets pointed at IT.
DDURBIN1
50%
50%
DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/7/2014 | 9:48:49 AM
Re: An XP -iration solution for those who cannot afford to upgrade
You my friend are a tragedy waiting to happen.  Take it from someone with more experience in OS than I care to admit.   You must plan for inside attacks not just outside ones. By your tack, I can only assume your Robolinux VM technology is not used for business purposes otherwise you would not pass a risk assessment audit done by an outside agent. 
Susan Fogarty
100%
0%
Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Author
1/7/2014 | 9:32:23 AM
Re: An XP -iration solution for those who cannot afford to upgrade
Whoa, it looks like someone needs to call in the referee here. I have to admit that I have never seen Robolinux in action, but I have been in IT long enough to know that ANY system, no matter how secure you think it is, can be compromised. All it takes is a dedicated hacker or a random fluke.
DDURBIN1
50%
50%
DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/6/2014 | 4:20:04 PM
Re: An XP -iration solution for those who cannot afford to upgrade
Get malware and you'll find out how mute it is.  I always have backups of any intance I run whether Lunix, VMware, Windows, or Hypervision but who wants to go through a restore process if they don't have too particularly while the business waits for you to fix it.
DDURBIN1
100%
0%
DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/6/2014 | 10:19:10 AM
Re: An XP -iration solution for those who cannot afford to upgrade
Virus free?  Sorry but running Windows in a Lunix "shell" does not make Windows immune to malware.  Keep thinking so and you're in for trouble.
Lorna Garey
50%
50%
Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
1/3/2014 | 1:21:14 PM
Ransomware
I'm fascinated by the concept that you'd pay a ransomware demand. What's the likelihood that will be the end of it? You're now known as person/company willing to deal with extorionists. There's a reason governments refuse to negotiate with terrorists.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
2021 State of ITOps and SecOps Report
2021 State of ITOps and SecOps Report
This new report from InformationWeek explores what we've learned over the past year, critical trends around ITOps and SecOps, and where leaders are focusing their time and efforts to support a growing digital economy. Download it today!
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

News
Remote Work Tops SF, NYC for Most High-Paying Job Openings
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  7/20/2021
Slideshows
Blockchain Gets Real Across Industries
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  7/22/2021
Commentary
Seeking a Competitive Edge vs. Chasing Savings in the Cloud
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  7/19/2021
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Monitoring Critical Cloud Workloads Report
In this report, our experts will discuss how to advance your ability to monitor critical workloads as they move about the various cloud platforms in your company.
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll