The 10 biggest hacking trends of 2019 so far may surprise you

July 26, 20194 minute read time

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2019 is shaping up to be the most challenging year ever for cybersecurity.

There were 1,903 publicly disclosed breaches and 1.9 billion exposed records in Q1 alone, according to RiskBased Security. A company’s chances of getting hacked are greater than ever, and hackers are constantly reinventing. Fortunately, digging into the latest research on 2019 data breaches can reveal some surprising—and some not-so-surprising—patterns of cybersecurity risks.

10 hacking trends dominating 2019

1. Hackers love misconfigurations

Misconfigurations were linked to 43 percent of data breaches analyzed by X-Force. That’s 990 million records lost via human error, resulting in unsecured cloud databases, open device ports, and exposed backups.

2. We’re still talking about phishing

29 percent of cybersecurity attacks used phishing, according to go X-Force. Nearly half of the latest phishing attacks involve hackers compromising business emails or engaging in whaling scams.

3. Coin-mining malware matures

Cryptojacking attacks grew a staggering 450 percent last year, according to Proofpoint. Professionals should be concerned about infected devices because the risks associated with crypto-malware go beyond the theft of computing resources—when threat actors infect a PC or mobile device, they could gain access to your network and mine Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies on your devices.

4. Extortion is the new ransomware

Ransomware comprised just 1 percent of malicious emails in Q4 2018, per Proofpoint. This tactic has been replaced by credential theft, downloaders, and infected attachments. There has also been a remarkable increase in direct attempts to blackmail executives.

5. Passwords are going missing

Nearly three-quarters of the records lost in Q1 2019 included email addresses and passwords, per RiskBased Security. 10 percent contained credit card or social security numbers. Stolen passwords can also be used in extortion attempts, so think twice about sharing and reusing your credentials in 2019.

6. Everyone has endpoint device security vulnerabilities

Two massive computer chip hardware vulnerabilities called Meltdown and Spectre were discovered in late 2018. This discovery revealed that virtually every computer chip manufactured since 2000 was vulnerable to side-channel attack. It’s officially time to do an endpoint device security assessment, patch your hardware, and update your office equipment vendors if necessary.

7. Malicious domains proliferate

An average of 10 million DNS requests to malicious sites are blocked each day, according to X-Force. A significant percentage of blocked domains attempt to distribute malware via DNS request, and hackers generally solicit the necessary clicks via spam email.

8. RATs are everywhere

Remote Access Trojans are having a moment of prominence. In Q4 2018, RATs comprised 8 percent of the malicious payloads analyzed by ProofPoint. From a hacker’s perspective, RATs are a versatile way to get almost anything done, including gaining total control over endpoints and exfiltrating all your data.

9. Smishing leads to malware

Android malware called TimpDoor soared to prominence in early 2019. When an attack commences, users are generally prompted to download a malicious app via SMS phishing, or “smishing,” according to McAfee. These apps install a nearly invisible backdoor that gives hackers covert access to corporate and home networks.

10. Most incidents are tiny

72 percent of security incidents in Q1 2019 involved the loss of just 1-10,000 records, RiskBased Security notes. Instances where physical devices are tampered with or emails being compromised are most often linked to smaller breaches.

What to do now

Before looking forward, let’s take a second to review some action items to help address 2019 hacking:

  • Patch or upgrade your hardware for endpoint device security
  • Consider your passwords leaked; it’s time to explore smarter authentication
  • Network segregation and detection can help you trap RATs and cryptojackers
  • It’s officially time to assess your network configurations and endpoint vulnerabilities

What’s next?

Hacking trends are tricky to predict, as evidenced by the rapid death of ransomware last year. With that said, there are a few ways you can innovate faster than hackers and respond to emerging threats in 2019 and beyond.

Endpoint protection starts now

Hardware vulnerabilities are everywhere, your attack surface is expanding, and recent regulations have made securing your systems even harder. Organizations that are subject to the GDPR are required to seek work council approval for endpoint protection tools after a breach, which means hackers can keep harvesting data in the meantime. Regardless of your compliance obligations, the time to address device vulnerabilities is before data loss.

Assume human error

Hackers know that people can be vulnerable, and they’re going to continue targeting the weakest link in your network. You can expect sophisticated social engineering and whaling attacks as well as less-sophisticated blackmail attempts. Some of your users may click on spammy attachments, even after tons of training. You should keep promoting awareness, but you also need to go further. Invest in smarter spam filters and devices that can quarantine and eliminate threats before they infect your network.

Visibility is a security advantage

The number of misconfigured endpoints is on the rise, and hackers love it when you make their job easy with an unsecured cloud database or printers protected with a password like “admin.” The solution here is increasing your visibility around your systems with management tools that enable you to understand risks across multiple cloud environments and multi-vendor printers.

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