As data becomes more and more valuable, hackers are devoting more energy to companies that hold on to valuable personal data — like social security numbers, bank details, and names and addresses.
The past few years have seen big increases in both the frequency and cost of data breaches. Since 2016, the average cost of a data breach has increased by more than half a million dollars. Big-name data breaches — like the ones suffered by Equifax, Facebook, and Apple — have consumers more aware than ever of how easily their data can be accessed by criminals.
At the same time, there's been an explosion of new consumer goods that connect to home networks — the internet of things (IoT) devices, like smart cameras, smart washers and digital home assistants. These devices make life more convenient but are also are notoriously vulnerable to hacking — which could leave data on home networks exposed and allow hackers to better target large businesses.
Here is the current state of cybercrime — and what hackers will likely be targeting next.
Organizations That Have Valuable Data
Data has become one of the most valuable commodities of modern industry — even referred to by some as "the new oil." Hackers know this, which is why more and more companies are suffering from data breaches.
On top of the increased pressure on security systems, businesses are facing two other security crises. The first is a talent shortage in the cybersecurity industry that has enterprise IT and cybersecurity departments working with less and less staff, forcing employees to work long hours and — in the worst-case scenario, cut corners.
The second crisis is the effects of those cut corners. There are steps that businesses can take to defend themselves against cybercrime — but in many cases, like the Capital One breach of 2019, basic security measures weren't in place. Once the hacker had network access, there was nothing stopping them from downloading customer information in plain text.
In many of the other biggest attacks of the past few years, consumer data was unencrypted, and network access wasn't tightly controlled. Even a tech giant like Apple, widely seen as one of the leaders in cybersecurity, suffered a breach of their iCloud in 2017. In this case, hackers gained network access via compromised third-party services.
When large corporations work with third-party developers and contractors, they have less control over the security of their own networks, which can lead to unauthorized access and data breaches. Even if in-house security is top-notch, all a hacker needs to do is identify and target the weakest link. In the future, we'll probably see a change in tactics — phishing attacks, like those used in the Equifax breach, will probably be the biggest threat for major organizations in 2020 and beyond.
IoT Devices and Unsecured Consumer Appliances
IoT devices are growing rapidly in popularity, but are also notoriously difficult to secure. The trend is worrying for cybersecurity experts who believe that unsecured IoT devices could provide hackers with an easy access point to home or organization networks.
Many IoT devices lack basic security features and have unlimited access to the home or office network they are connected to. That means that if a hacker can access just one smart device, they may have access to the whole network.
Access controls and better IoT security can fix this problem — but many consumers don't know how to configure network access and have little or no control over what kind of security features their smart devices ship with.
There are worse possibilities that may be in store if the IoT market begins to retract. If a company that manufactures a smart device goes out of business, there's no longer any support for that device — no security updates and no notices about vulnerabilities. Consumers may be left in the dark if the IoT boom proves short-lived, and many of these companies pivot away from smart devices and quietly drop support.
At the same time, newer IoT devices are more secure than ever — a low bar to clear, but good news nonetheless for smart homeowners. Over the course of the next decade, hackers may find new IoT devices too secure to be worth hacking.
Hacking and the Future of Cybersecurity
Data is more valuable than ever — and that makes networks with confidential data big targets for hackers.
In the future, smart consumer devices and large company networks will likely be the biggest targets for hackers, just due to how difficult both can be to secure. There are no signs yet that the growth of cybercrime will reverse. Companies and manufacturers of smart home devices will need to be prepared for a future in which they are facing more cyberattacks than ever.