Hacktivism, deepfakes, attacks on business collaboration tools, new regulatory mandates, and pressure to cut complexity will top organizations’ security agendas over coming year, according to Check Point

What should organizations expect in 2023 in terms of cyber-attacks and how can they stay ahead of threats? Check Point executives recently shared their predictions of key security challenges organizations will likely face over the next year.

Cyberattacks across all industry sectors increased by 28% in the third quarter of 2022 compared to 2021, and Check Point predicts a continued sharp rise worldwide, driven by increases in ransomware exploits and in state-mobilized hacktivism driven by international conflicts.  At the same time, organizations’ security teams will face growing pressure as the global cyber workforce gap of 3.4 million employees widens further, and Governments are expected to introduce new cyber-regulations to protect citizens against breaches.

In 2022 cyber criminals and state-linked threat actors continued to exploit organizations’ hybrid working practices, and the increase in these attacks is showing no signs of slowing as the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to have a profound impact globally. Organizations need to consolidate and automate their security infrastructure to enable them to better monitor and manage their attack surfaces and prevent all types of threat with less complexity and less demand on staff resources.

Check Point’s cybersecurity predictions for 2023 fall into four categories:

Hikes in malware and hacking exploits

    • No respite from ransomware: This was the leading threat to organizations in the first half of 2022, and the ransomware ecosystem will continue to evolve and grow with smaller, more agile criminal groups forming to evade law enforcement.

      Oded Vanunu, Head of Products Vulnerability Research, Check Point Software, expects to see a “dramatic increase of digital scams, due to a global economic slowdown and inflation. Cybercriminals will increasingly turn to social media campaigns via Telegram, WhatsApp and other popular messaging apps. There will also be more cyber-attacks on Web3 blockchain platforms, mainly to overtake platforms and their users’ crypto assets.”

    • Compromising collaboration tools: “While email and phishing go hand-in-hand and will still be dangerous and proliferate, in 2023 cybercriminals will also turn to business collaboration compromise, with phishing attacks used to access Slack, Teams, OneDrive, Google Drive, etc.,” predicted Jeremy Fuchs, Research Analyst at Avanan, a Check Point company. “Employees are often loose with sharing data and personal information while using these business apps, making them a lucrative source of data for hackers.”

Hacktivism and deepfakes evolve

    • State-mobilized hacktivism: In the past year, hacktivism has evolved from social groups with fluid agendas (such as Anonymous) to state-backed groups that are more organized, structured and sophisticated. Such groups have attacked targets in the US, Germany, Italy, Norway, Finland, Poland and Japan recently, and these ideological attacks will continue to grow in 2023.

      Maya Horowitz, VP of Research, Check Point Software, said: “We’re entering a new era of hacktivism, with increasing attacks motivated by political and social causes. Threat actors are becoming increasingly shameless and will turn their attention to critical infrastructure.”

      Micki Boland, Office of the CTO, Check Point Software, went as far as to predict: “We will see a nation-state lead a sustained and lengthy attack against the USA’s power grid, leading to power disruptions impacting critical business and societal functions.”

    • Weaponizing deepfakes: in October 2022, a deepfake of U.S. President Joe Biden singing ‘Baby Shark’ instead of the national anthem was circulated widely. Was this a joke, or an attempt to influence the important US mid-term elections? Deepfake technology will be increasingly used to target and manipulate opinions, or to trick employees into giving up access credentials.

      Said Mark Ostrowski, Office of the CTO, Check Point Software: “Deepfakes will go mainstream with hacktivists and cybercriminals leveraging video and voicemails for successful phishing and ransomware attacks.”

Governments step up measures to protect citizens

    • New laws around data breaches: the breach at Australian telco Optus has driven the country’s government to introduce new data breach regulations that other telcos must follow, to protect customers against subsequent fraud. Expect to see other national governments following this example in 2023, in addition to existing measures such as GDPR.

      Deryck Mitchelson, EMEA CISO, Check Point Software, said: ““We will see much more debate around and push for security regulation, as the current carrot-and-stick approach has not worked.”

    • New national cybercrime task forces: more Governments will follow Singapore’s example of setting up inter-agency task forces to counter ransomware and cybercrime, bringing businesses, state departments and law enforcement together to combat the growing threat to commerce and consumers.

      These efforts are partially a result of questions over whether the cyber-insurance sector can be relied upon as a safety net for cyber incidents. “The cyber-insurance industry is undergoing major tectonic shifts,” observed Dan Wiley, Head of Threat Management, Check Point Software. “Companies will most likely not be able to rely on insurance as a safety net for cyber incidents.”

    • Mandating security and privacy by design: the automotive industry has already moved to introduce measures to protect the data of vehicle owners. This example will be followed in other areas of consumer goods that store and process data, holding manufacturers accountable for vulnerabilities in their products.

      Wiley predicted: “Like we’ve seen with the auto industry, policymakers will act to protect their constituents with legislation holding makers accountable for software defects that create cyber vulnerabilities. In turn, this will put the onus on software vendors to build-in security validations.”

Consolidation matters

    • Cutting complexity to reduce risks: the global cyber-skills gap grew by over 25% in 2022. Yet organizations have more complex, distributed networks and cloud deployments than ever before because of the pandemic. Security teams need to consolidate their IT and security infrastructures to improve their defences and reduce their workload, to help them stay ahead of threats. Over two-thirds of CISOs stated that working with fewer vendors’ solutions would increase their company’s security.

      According to Jony Fischbein, CISO, Check Point Software: “In our multi-hybrid environment, many CISOs struggle to build a comprehensive security program with multiple vendors. In 2023, CISOs will decrease the number of security solutions deployed in favor of a comprehensive, single solution to reduce complexity.”

      EMEA CISO Mitchelson added: “Cloud transformation will slow due to cost and complexity, with many firms considering bringing workloads back in-house or to private data centers to reduce their overall threat surface.”