Those hoping for some respite from the world’s ongoing woes are out of luck, apparently.
FireEye and McAfee, whose business models center around charging enterprises money to protect their networks from cyber-threats, issued a joint report this week predicting next year you’ll see an increase in cyber-threats, particularly those against enterprise networks and the staff who run them.
“The time to repurpose vulnerabilities into working exploits will be measured in hours and there’s nothing you can do about it … except patch,” wrote FireEye’s Fred House in a note accompanying the 2022 Enterprise Threat Predictions report.
Other cheerful things that will doubtless fill El Reg readers with joy are predictions that containers will become targets for “expanded exploitation.” These will include attacks against Kubernetes plus network endpoint hijacking to run cryptocurrency miners – although the demise of Monero mining service Coinhive last year led to a sharp drop in cryptojacking.
Nation states will “increase their offensive operations by leveraging cybercriminals.” as senior principal McAfee engineer Christiaan Beek theorized, citing the example of US indictments against four Chinese nationals who were allegedly running front companies on behalf of Beijing. Coercing cyber-skilled criminals into working for the state is something Russia has been doing as far back as in 2017.
On top of that, McAfee chief research scientist Raj Samani added that nation state-level threat actors are likely to “target more enterprise professionals,” too, during 2022.
“After all,” he observed, “it is the most efficient method to bypass traditional security controls and directly communicate with targets at companies that are of interest to threat groups.”
The best-known example of this approach is when Britain’s GCHQ used LinkedIn to compromise sysadmins at Belgian telco Belgacom (now known as Proximus), eventually infiltrating 5,000 staff devices and Belgacom’s core network routers.
Chinese and Russian spy agencies have both been seen copying GCHQ’s tactics in recent years, prompting the British eavesdroppers’ stablemates at domestic security agency MI5 to issue a public warning.
North Korea has also made use of this tactic, with McAfee’s warning reiterating previous findings that APT38 (aka Lazarus Group), North Korea’s state cyber-spying bureau, has used LinkedIn to target people of interest. While McAfee highlighted this as a tactic to watch out for, it’s hardly new or unprecedented.
Cyber security warnings and predictions tend to follow patterns. Although the rise of nation states targeting ordinary businesses over the past few years has been a genuinely new thing, most of the time warnings and predictions boil down to following straightforward security advice (e.g. how to spot and avoid phishing emails or dubious social media contact attempts, or implementing MFA).
For now the threat to enterprises comes mainly from ransomware and hostile nations’ intelligence agencies looking for information to steal – and 2022 looks like it’ll be very similar to 2021 in that regard. ®