Cyber security is the number one new megatrend shaping the industry, according to the Security Industry Association’s (SIA) yearly report defining the major trends and forces at play in the global security industry. By nearly 30 percentage points, industry leaders said cyber security’s impact on physical security solutions was the greatest they were expecting to face in 2019.
Here is the cybersecurity industry’s annual predictions, online threat forecasts and cybersecurity trend reports. The roundup of top insights from the leading security companies and cyber experts for 2019 and into the 2020s.
1) Trend Micro once again delivers a top-notch, comprehensive security prediction report that is easy to access and based upon “our experts’ analysis of progress of current and emerging technologies, user behavior, and market trends, and their impact on the threat landscape.”
Trend Micro’s report is titled Mapping the Future: Dealing With Pervasive and Persistent Threats and is available in Web and PDF formats. They do a creative job of categorizing their predictions into items for Consumers, Enterprises, Governments, Security Industry, Industrial Control Systems, Cloud Infrastructures and Smart Homes — with pragmatic action items for all.
Here are a few top-line prediction examples (with many more details available in the report linked above)
- Actual Mass Real-World Use of Breached Credentials Will Be Seen
- Sextortion Cases Will Rise
- Home Networks in Work-From-Home Scenarios Will Open Enterprises to BYOD-like Security Risks
- Innocent Victims Will Get Caught in the Crossfire As Countries Grow Their Cyber Presence
- 99% of Exploit-Based Attacks Will Still Not Be Based on 0-Day Vulnerabilities
- Cybercriminals Will Compete for Dominance in an Emerging IoT ‘Worm War’
- My favorite from Trend Micro: Cybercriminals Will Use More Techniques to Blend In – “In response to security vendor technologies, specifically the renewed interest in machine learning for cybersecurity, cybercriminals will use more malicious tactics to “blend in.” New ways of using normal computing objects for purposes other than their intended use or design — a practice known as “living off the land” — will continue to be discovered, documented, and shared. We have been observing a few of these.”
2) FireEye once again offers an extensive, intriguing predictions report, which is excellent and definitely worth reading. But for the first time in a few years, they do not require registration to access their prediction details. However, once you read for a few minutes, a box will pop up requiring your contact details to continue, so if you don’t want to register — save the PDF quickly offline. And yes — the report is impressive and thought-provoking.
FireEye’s report is titled: Facing Forward: Cyber Security in 2019 and Beyond. (You can also watch a video overview discussion below from FireEye.) Their leadership took a different approach this year, offering words of wisdom on cybertrends from executives on a variety of topics. It starts with this strong endorsement of prediction reports from Kevin Mandia their CEO: “In the cyber security industry, we’re so frequently working around-the-clock for days at a time that we often forget when one year ends and another begins. It’s a shame, too, because the end of the year is a very important time. It provides a moment to reflect on what we observed and experienced over the past 12 months, and to consider how best to address the challenges we have been facing. Perhaps more critical to our line of work, it offers an opportunity to note what developed into a trend, and what might develop into a trend as we move into the next year and beyond.”
Here are some of the high-level topics covered by FireEye:
- (More) Nations developing offensive capabilities
- Breaches continuing due to lack of attribution and accountability
- The widening skills gap, and fewer trained experts to fill security roles
- Lack of resources, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises
- Supply chain as a weakness
- Attackers eyeing the cloud, since that’s where the data is headed
- Social engineering, considered by many to be the most dangerous threat
- Cyberespionage, cybercrime and other threats to the aviation industry
3) McAfee Labs 2019 Threats Prediction Report led with these words: “Greater collaboration among cybercriminals exploiting the underground market, which has allowed them to develop efficiencies in their products. Cybercriminals have been partnering in this way for years; in 2019 this market economy will only expand. The game of cat and mouse the security industry plays with ransomware developers will escalate, and the industry will need to respond more quickly and effectively than ever before. …”
Ever heard of “synergistic threats?” You’ll need to read their report to understand where that trend is going. Here are their top 7 predictions — with details at the links on each item:
- Cybercriminal Underground to Consolidate, Create More Partnerships to Boost Threats
- Artificial Intelligence the Future of Evasion Techniques
- Synergistic Threats Will Multiply, Requiring Combined Responses
- Misinformation, Extortion Attempts to Challenge Organizations’ Brands
- Data Exfiltration Attacks to Target the Cloud
- Voice-Controlled Digital Assistants the Next Vector in Attacking IoT Devices
- Cybercriminals to Increase Attacks on Identity Platforms and Edge Devices Under Siege
4) WatchGuard Technologies kept pace with the top-tier cybersecurity rivals in their 2019 prediction report that breaks some new ground. “This year the team at the WatchGuard Threat Lab imagined a string of attacks that could lead to a cybersecurity apocalypse. Our security predictions for 2019 span from likely to audacious, but in all cases there’s hope for preventing them with layered security defenses that meet them head-on!”
My favorite Watchguard Predictions:
- AI-Driven Chatbots Go Rogue
- Utilities and Industrial Control Systems Targeted with Ransomware (heard this from others)
- A Nation-State Launches a “Fire Sale” Attack
- Fileless, Self-Propagating “Vaporworms” Attack
- Attackers Hold the Internet Hostage
5) Forcepoint stepped-up their game with an impressive cybersecurity prediction report this year with a 23-page quality presentation in multiple formats including PDF. They went out on a few limbs and countered the masses on areas ranging from AI to the cloud.
Their content is also fresh and not “warmed over from last year” like many other 2019 reports.
- The winter of AI — There is no real AI in cybersecurity, nor any likelihood for it to develop in 2019.
- Industrial IoT disruption at scale — Attackers will disrupt Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices using vulnerabilities in cloud infrastructure and hardware
- A counterfeit reflection — Hackers will game end-user face recognition software, and organizations will respond with behavior-based systems.
- Courtroom face-off — 2019 will see a court case in which, after a data breach, an employee claims innocence and an employer claims deliberate action.
- A collision course to cyber cold war — Isolationist trade policies will incentivize nation states and corporate entities to steal trade secrets and use cybertactics to disrupt government, critical infrastructure, and vital industries
- Driven to the edge — Consumer concern about breaches will cause companies to embrace edge computing in order to enhance privacy. Designers will face significant headwinds with adoption due to low user trust.
- Cybersecurity cultures that do not adapt will fail — Industrywide security trust ratings will emerge as organizations seek assurances that partners and supply chains are trusted partners.
6) Beyond Trust — Once again offers a solid list of security predictions that have hyperlinks to plenty of supporting details and reasons why (for those who like to dig deeper.) I like the opening by Morey Haber their CTO: “There are three jobs in this world where you can be completely wrong all the time and still not have to worry about being fired. One is a parent. Another is a weatherperson. And the last one is a technology trends forecaster.”
Their top predictions include:
- Privileged attack vectors will continue to be the number one root cause of breaches for both consumer and business data.
- Well-known Vulnerabilities Will Continue to Dominate Cyber Attack Reports — “The pattern of successful attacks through the use of well-known and entirely preventable vulnerabilities shows little sign of abating. Organizations continue to focus their efforts injudiciously, ignoring the lower severity vulnerabilities with known exploits in favor of largely academic, high severity vulnerabilities.”
- AI on the Attack — Skynet is becoming self-aware!
- Results Section: Millennials Ruin Everything — Evolving Definitions of Privacy
- Centralized Information Brokers Emerge
7) Symantec — In a featured blog, Symantec leaders Steve Trilling and Dr. Hugh Thompson offer their list of Cyber Security Predictions: 2019 and Beyond. Their predictions were fairly mainstream. Here are a few:
- Attackers Will Exploit Artificial Intelligence (AI) Systems and Use AI to Aid Assaults
- Defenders Will Depend Increasingly on AI to Counter Attacks and Identify Vulnerabilities
- Growing 5G Deployment and Adoption Will Begin to Expand the Attack Surface Area
- IoT-Based Events Will Move Beyond Massive DDoS Assaults to New, More Dangerous Forms of Attack
- Attackers Will Increasingly Capture Data in Transit
8) Kaspersky’s 2019 Predictions were harder to find than last year, but they still offer some very good insights, such as these:
- No more big APTs
- Public retaliation
- Emergence of newcomers — “The thing is that the entry barrier has never been so low, with hundreds of very effective tools, re-engineered leaked exploits and frameworks of all kinds publicly available for anyone to use. As an additional advantage, such tools make attribution nearly impossible and can be easily customized if necessary.
- The ever-increasing attack surface — The increasing amount of automation systems, the variety of automation tools, number of organizations and individuals with direct or remote access to automation systems, as well as the emergence of communication channels for monitoring and remote control between previously independent objects — all expand the opportunities for criminals to plan and execute their attacks.
- The underestimation of general threat levels
9) Verizon — I give Verizon a lot of credit for going back every year and looking at how they did at predicting trends from the year before. Verizon offers this list of 7 trends driving enterprise IT transformation in 2019. Most of these are customer focused (and not security-focused) like: “Businesses will invest for performance.” And yet, almost every one of these has a security component that shows up regarding trust and delivery guarantees.
Consider these Verizon predictions:
- Contextual privacy will be front and center
- Automation will transform the workforce: Robotic process automation and machine learning (ML) will transform how business operates
- We’ll go back to basics on security (again), but also focus on specifics: In 2019, organizations will redouble their efforts to strengthen their security posture. It’s about understanding their risk environment, and ensuring they are doing the basics right to protect their business; practicing IT hygiene to keep infrastructure current to protect against vulnerabilities continues to be critical.
10) AT&T — offers these 5 cybersecurity trends to expect in 2019. Starting the list is cybersecurity automation: “As it relates to staffing, we may see a rise in the automation of security and data privacy. …”
Also, after many predictions from 1993 came true, AT&T recently asked their staff to think more long-term about where the world is heading over the next decade or two. You may wonder, what do any of these have to do with security? Quite a bit, if they are going to come true.
Here are some of those AT&T future predictions:
- Caretaking robots — Robots are already in our homes in the form of vacuum cleaners and cute mechanical dogs, but Andrew McAfee, MIT research scientist, envisions more sophisticated robots helping senior citizens with dementia or children with autism. “One of the great things is they don’t get impatient with human beings,” he said.
- AI and your digital self — Artificial intelligence can allow us to leave an imprint of ourselves that can remain a hundred years from now. Alicia Abella, VP of operational automation and program management for AT&T, envisions creating an AI print of her deceased father, a pitcher, who could teach her son how to play baseball.
- Shopping — The mundane task of grocery shopping could be eliminated if Abella has her way. She describes virtually picking her own tomatoes, but through an avatar in the store while she sits at home.
- Cars — Autonomous driving may end up being a real game changer for the industry. “No one will own a car in 25 years,” said Rsesh Patel, senior executive vice president of retail and care at AT&T.
11) RSA Security (A division of Dell) — Back in October, RSA offered these trends for 2019 in the Middle East, which quite frankly read like more of the same as in 2018. However, this updated December list of 7 trends to watch out for seems more cutting edge — but no big surprises.
Here are a few new RSA security predictions:
- More sophisticated artificial intelligence features of security tools in 2019.
- Cryptomining will continue to be a threat as long as attackers can make quick cash from the infections. Be on the lookout and deploy endpoint and intrusion prevention tools designed to detect these exploits. (Note: This is different than others who think this trend is fading.)
- Lack of backup verifications will continue to plague IT managers, making ransomware a continued threat in 2019.
12) Forbes — Most readers know that Forbes magazine online offers a wealth of different perspectives and experts on a variety of topics, but they also carefully select who speaks for them. This list of 60 cybersecurity predictions for 2019 by Gill Press is worth reading through, mainly because it covers the thoughts of some of excellent leaders in smaller companies that are breaking ground on new ideas and cybersolutions in areas like AI.
Here are few of my favorites on the Forbes list:
- “Terrorist-related groups will attack population centers with crimeware-as-a-service. …
- Managing privacy will be the new normal, like securing data or paying taxes. Privacy will continue on a similar path as the evolution of cybersecurity. …
- ”In 2019, healthcare organizations will be the number one target for attackers. …
13) Bitdefender cracks the top list for the first time, with this well-thought-out list from Liviu Arsene, who is a Global Cybersecurity Researcher.
Some of their top predictions:
- macOS attacks on the rise — Apple’s share of the desktop market is rising, and malware designed to infect Macs is growing along with it.
- Combating invisible threats — Network-level exploits will enter the limelight next year, and they will likely be hyped by social media, if history is any indication.
- A shift toward mobile attacks — Fintech services are paving the way to a very profitable new trend for hackers, particularly in the mobile space. The more money they manage on behalf of their users, or the tighter the integration with traditional banking systems, the more attention they will get from cybercrooks who will likely develop new threats targeting these specific services in 2019.
14) Sophos Labs offers an excellent 2019 Threat Report that highlights cybertrends for the coming year, some pontification about 2018 as well as conclusions like “ransomware is not going away.” Here are a few of the Sophos cyberthreat trend topics covered as we head into 2019:
- Targeted attacks gain popularity, reap deep rewards
- What’s old is new again
- Transitioning to manual attack mode
- SamSam ransom payments — Total: $6.5 million USD
- Attacker techniques evolve to use what’s already there
- “Living off the land” is the new law of the land
- How “LoL” changes malware detection and prevention
- The growth explosion of Office exploits
- Mobile and IoT: Malware is not slowing down
- The growing and persistent threat of mobile malware
- Android: The good, the bad, and the ugly
- Unusual malicious campaigns affecting the Android platform
- Attacks against the internet of things
15) IBM’s predictions could not be more different than Forcepoint. In a sentence, Big Blue is going “all-in” on AI and throwing a bit of quantum computing in the mix for 2019 to help solve our growing problems.
- Causality will increasingly replace correlations
- Trusted AI will take center stage
- Quantum could give AI an assist
IBM’s X-Force Labs also put out their own predictions this week which can be found here.
16) Forrester — The resources of Forrester, Gartner and a few similar companies are extensive in the prediction space, but finding their content can be difficult, given their business models to ask you to pay for details behind their materials. Most of their reports are not free.
Still, there are many ways to get Forrester prediction overviews (with details often hidden unless you pay) in both technology and security.
For technology, here are 14 quick tech predictions for 2019 — leading with “Customer experience (CX) remains under fire.”
For security, this blog lays out Forrester’s 2019 themes, such as “Economic espionage will reawaken because of the US-China trade war.” And, “women CISOs will increase as companies look for different perspectives.”
17) Gartner offers these 2019 “Top Strategic Predictions for 2019 and Beyond.” Here are some interesting samples — that go into the 2020s:
- Affidavits fail cyberbullying — By 2023, 25% of organizations will require employees to sign affidavits to avoid cyberbullying, but 70% of these initiatives will fail.
- Personal data poisons blockchain — By 2022, 75% of public blockchains will suffer “privacy poisoning” — inserted personal data that renders the blockchain noncompliant with privacy laws.
- Consumers ignore security breaches — Through 2021, social media scandals and security breaches will have effectively zero lasting consumer impact.
18) Nuvias Group — Ian Kilpatrick, EVP Cyber Security, Nuvias Group, offers a simple, straightforward list that seems pragmatic, with few surprises.
Top 3 Predictions:
- Increase in crime, espionage and sabotage by rogue nation-states
- GDPR — the pain still to come
- Cloud insecurity — it’s your head on the block
19) Barracuda MSP — offers this list of 2019 predictions via ChannelFutures.com — Here are a few:
- Email security will continue to dominate the threat landscape.
- Cybersecurity education will be key to mitigating threats and vulnerabilities.
- Differentiation will happen through vertical focus. (for channel partners)
Bonus cyber prediction to round off to an even 20 — heading into 2020:
Zscaler offers this excellent list of predictions that starts with these three items:
- We’ll see an increase in attacks targeting specific cloud applications.
- Governments will look to the private sector for help with securing cloud apps.
- More state-employed white hat hackers will “moonlight” with organized criminal elements.
Honorable Mention Predictions — These are not in my top 19, but offer good predictions. If you don’t see your organization’s predictions on the list, let me know, and I will consider adding after review. (Note: The prediction must be available online to reference details via a link):
- Malwarebytes — Bring your own security grows as trust declines.
- Palo Alto Networks disappointed me this year with their Cyberthreats in 2019: The Trends That Will Continue to Move Upward (pretty obvious predictions — nothing sexy).
- Imperva — Scaled back their look at the year ahead
- CSO magazine — offers another excellent prediction list that has nine mainstream predictions from multiple experts.
- CyberArk — Offers some bold predictions, such as social media getting regulated like critical infrastructure in 2019.
- Synopsys — Offer predictions on software, such as AI and machine learning being a big help.
- ZDNet — offers a compilation of security predictions from multiple sources and lists what they determine to be the most plausible.
- Panda Security — Offers these 12 predictions. They lead with a rise in nation-state attacks.
- Experian offers their forecast of the top 5 data breach predictions for 2019 here. Their another organization predicting a major cloud breach as well as biometric hacks.
- RiskIQ — offers a professional list focused on threat management
- DXC Technology offered 10 security predictions worth looking at for 2018, like “Serverless computing skews security.” And now for 2019, here are 6 more to disrupt your digital transformation journey — including this video to help.
- Channelnomics.com — Offers these vendor predictions. I like this excerpt: “Ninety-nine percent of partners questioned for a December 2018 survey by network security firm Untangle said that cyber security as an overall part of their business will increase or stay the same in 2019, while 80 percent believe that their cyber security revenue will increase in 2019. …”
- SC magazine offers these six cybersecurity predictions, leading with: “Zero Trust Goes from Buzzword to Reality.”
- Information-management.com offers these 10 cybersecurity predictions for 2019 — leading with “Increase in crime, espionage and sabotage by rogue nation-states.”
- DZone offers an extensive list of 2019 security predictions starting here,however, they ask if overall predictions are very different from last year? They believe that “we are making progress against cyber attacks.” Still, their detailed list is worth reviewing as they are a rare predictor with optimism.
BioMetricUpdate.com offers these unique and fascinating cybersecurity predictions from the ‘first major biometric hack’ to ‘IoT devices start to scam users’ – meaning that our fridge and washing machines may start buying (authorizing payments) for unwanted items.
- Thycotic – Joseph Carson, Chief Security Scientist at Thycotic, is very smart, with global experience and has amazing cyberstories. His 5 cyber predictions are worth reading and begin with a unique prediction “million-dollar data breach fines.”
- CDO Trends offers these 5 Ways 2019 Can Be Very Different For Cybersecurity. They lead with this from CyberArk: “Emerging ‘unique human identities’ under attack” – meaning “attackers will increasingly target these identities to gather massive amounts of biometric data for future modeling purposes and nefarious use. …”
- Splunk has come out with their predictions for 2019, which are highlighted here. Their ebook, which requires registration, covers AI and machine learning, security, IT operations, and IoT. Splunk predicts that security teams will benefit from big data platforms, machine-learning-based analytics, and orchestration and automation technologies.
- NTT Security issued their predictions for 2019, and they were one of the few companies saying that a significant cyberattack against critical infrastructure (albeit in a developing nation) will lead to a major health or safety impact on the nation’s citizens.
- Robert Ackerman Jr., who is the founder and managing director of AllegisCyber offers his perspective on a worse hacking landscape in 2019. One specific (and new) item on his list – more cyber attacks on satellites. Robert also says ransomware will expand – while others say the opposite.
- Healthcare Analytics News (HCANews.com) offers these thoughts on what’s next for cybersecurity. Some of these forecasts are opposites of others on this list (such as the death of passwords being overblown). At the same time, this is unique: “We will get one step closer to living in “The Matrix.” They also are starting to see cybersecurity as a competitive advantage in 2019. (I agree)
- KnowTechie.com offers these cyber security predictions for 2019 from Evan Morris, with many familiar items on his New Year’s Eve list. Here’s a new item near the end: “New jobs appearing, such as chief cybercrime officer (CCO).”
- Zack Whittaker, a senior editor at TechCrunch, offered an entertaining list of activities to expect in cybersecurity in 2019 – a few hours before the ball dropped in NYC. I give him credit for including: “Brexit hampering U.K. start-up growth” and “draconian Australian encryption laws will hurt” which are not on other lists. His opening rant on how “predictions are not news,” and “predictions emails piss me off” reminds me of Ira Winkler’s similar sentiments offered a few years back in this Computerworld opinion: “Hocus-pocus! The stupidity of cybersecurity predictions.” My detailed (contrarian) response to Ira (and now Zach) on why this is happening and how to benefit can be found here. While I can relate to Zach’s experiences related to companies having prediction agendas, this is just a warm-up for 2020. He would get the ‘Ticked Off Award’ – if I had one.
- ChannelE2E.com brings us Tim Brown, SolarWinds MSP VP of Security, who offers 4 Cybersecurity Predictions for 2019 that focus on how data breach reporting may expand and on how “MSPs and MSSPs will partner.” This piece offers a unique and helpful perspective for security service providers.
What’s Missing From These Predictions?
Very little mentioned about cyberattacks trying to take advantage of or disrupt global events, from sports events like March Madness betting to the Rugby World Cup scheduled in Japan in 2019 to G8 and other potential gatherings.
It hard to say how financial markets could be impacted in 2019, but the recent big drop in stocks in the USA is certain to cause change and probably some hacker pain somewhere. With Fed testimony on 12/19/18, the market swung over 500 points on the words spoken by the Fed Chairman. Could false online rumors in 2019 cause a major stock market move? Or, could hackers somehow manipulate stocks?
After everyone seemed to have a prediction on bitcoin in 2018, the huge drop in price has quieted talk about cryptocurrencies, but expect more hacking and other shenanigans with digital currencies.
Also, hacktivism is rarely mentioned for 2019, but a comeback of the small guys making headlines is sure to erupt at some point regarding global hacktivist activity. Indeed, I think a lot of that happened in 2018, but was below the radar. Could the “yellow vests” in France or others around the world do more online disruption? I think so. See this piece for more on this trend.
Finally, cyberinsurance will evolve in some of the ways outlined in this UK article.
Here’s one cyberprediction from yours truly (Dan Lohrmann) for 2019 — more organizations and media outlets than ever will be making cyberpredictions for 2020 next October through December about the decade in cyber to come. Expect many more trends and forecast lists with titles similar to “top 20 security predictions for the 2020s.”
And as we head into 2019, I want to thank you for continuing to fight the cyberfight — despite the challenges and moving threat landscape that makes data protection so difficult.
Peter Drucker once said that “trying to predict the future is like trying to drive down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window.”
But Alexander Graham Bell once said: “The day will come when the man at the telephone will be able to see the distant person to whom he is speaking.”
How did he know that?