An avalanche of hacks, breaches, and data exposures have rattled government agencies and private companies alike, and the victims are typically consumers or citizens.
An attack earlier this summer that targeted Uighur Muslims and Tibetans in China exposed flaws in systems like iOS that were previously thought to be impenetrable. Ransomware attacks have swept government agencies across the US, debilitating them for days on end.
Hackers are becoming increasingly innovative with the techniques they use to access sensitive data. In many cases, new technologies that have just hit the market are boons to hackers, who capitalize on people’s lack of understanding of how those technologies work, as well as undiscovered holes in new systems’ security.
In turn, cybersecurity experts are highlighting certain technologies that have been repeatedly exploited by hackers, calling for heightened awareness of their vulnerability to bad actors.
Here are seven emerging technologies that pose threats to modern cybersecurity.
AI-generated “deepfake” audio and video can help hackers scam people.
“Deepfake” technology — which allows people to manipulate video and audio in a way that looks very real — has made leaps and bounds in recent years Indeed, anyone familiar with face-swapping filters on Snapchat or Instagram has witnessed a rudimentary version of deepfake technology firsthand.
As deepfakes become increasingly sophisticated and hard to tell apart from the real thing, cybersecurity experts worry that hackers could use the technology for phishing scams, wherein hackers pose as somebody else to get victims to hand over private information.
Some companies are working on AI-driven software to detect deepfakes, but these efforts are still in the early stages of development.
Quantum computing could easily crack encryption.
In September, Google announced that it had achieved “quantum supremacy,” meaning it built a functioning quantum computer — a feat that had been theorized but never achieved. The announcement was a major milestone in the field, but the technology is still nascent and doesn’t have many practical applications yet.
Nonetheless, the announcement raised immediate concerns for security watchdogs, who say that quantum computers — which channel aberrant phenomena from quantum physics into computing power — could easily break encryption currently used in products seen as airtight, like blockchain or credit card transactions.
While quantum computers haven’t been used to this end by hackers yet, experts worry that the technology could continue to advance in years to come, threatening encrypted data sets that organizations like banks protect for decades.
5G networks will bring faster speeds, and a host of new vulnerabilities.
5G is beginning to roll out as the next generation of wireless network, promising faster wireless internet with the bandwidth to support more devices.
But security watchdogs warn that the shift to 5G could give hackers new inroads to target systems that use the network. The increased speed could make 5G devices more susceptible to DDoS attacks, which aim to flood victims’ servers with traffic in order to overwhelm and shut them down, according to Security Boulevard.
The “internet of things” creates new threats to security infrastructure.
The “internet of things,” or networks specifically made for internet-connected devices and appliances to communicate with each other, is now used widely across industries.
As this technology becomes more common, however, hackers are increasingly finding vulnerabilities in IoT networks and using them to compromise companies’ operations. In one high-profile example, hackers breached the network used by Verizon’s shipping vessels and were able to track where the company was shipping its most valuable cargo.
Hackers are using artificial intelligence to outsmart cybersecurity systems.
As artificial intelligence makes leaps forward in sophistication and versatility, hackers are already using it to get around cybersecurity defenses. Hackers can use AI-driven programs to quickly scan networks to find weak points, or predictive text functions to impersonate insiders and trick targets into handing over sensitive information.
“We do imagine that there will be a time when attackers use machine learning and artificial intelligence as part of the attack. We have seen early signs of that,” Nicole Egan, CEO of cybersecurity firm Darktrace, told the Wall Street Journal.
As companies outsource high-tech functions to third parties, supply-chain hacks proliferate.
A growing number of recent data breaches came about as the result of “supply chain” hacks, wherein break into a company’s software that’s in turn distributed to clients.
This trend is the result of an increasing number of companies and agencies outsourcing services to third parties, which widens the range of potential victims for hackers to target. According to a recent report by cybersecurity firm Aon, the number of targets that are potentially vulnerable to supply chain hacks is growing exponentially.
More operational functions are moving online, which is good news for hackers.
ompanies and government agencies are maximizing the number of operations that use internet connectivity, drawn in by the efficiency the internet brings.
But doing so comes at a security cost — with more internet connectivity, the “attack surface” that’s vulnerable to hacks becomes wider, lowering an organization’s defenses, according to the Aon report. If hackers compromise one internet-connected facet of an organization, it’s easy for them to laterally hack other devices on the network.