Trend Micro warns of cybersecurity threats in 2019

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GLOBAL CYBERSECURITY firm Trend Micro, Inc. said there are “more sophisticated” threats expected to arrive in 2019 that individuals and companies must watch out for.

In its report “Mapping the Future: Dealing with Pervasive and Persistent Threats,” the company said some breaching activities expected this year involve the phishing of accounts of online celebrities, sextortion, fake news, cloud-related vulnerabilities and artificial intelligence (AI).

“Cybercriminals will continue to follow a winning formula — exploit existing flaws, social engineering and stolen credentials — to drive profits,” Trend Micro Country Manager for the Philippines Ian Felipe said in a statement.

The company said this year may see the accounts of famous personalities online such as YouTube stars and Instagram and Twitter influencers compromised via phishing attacks.

“These will shine a light on account security in mainstream media, but not before millions of users following these accounts have been affected by whatever payload the attackers have in store for them,” Trend Micro warned.

It added that cases of bullying through sextortion may rise this year. Sextortion is the act of blackmailing someone to pay by threatening to publish a recorded sexual activity or information online.

“Even if there is no guarantee that a blackmailer will come through, the highly personal nature of this kind of attacks will make the victim seriously consider fulfilling the attacker’s demands, whether that means money or sexual favors. As sextortion, in particular, becomes more widespread, this kind of attacks will affect, and perhaps even claim, more lives in 2019,” the report said.

Trend Micro said a rise in the spread of fake news is also likely to happen this year, especially with the midterm polls scheduled in May. “We believe that in 2019, the improvements social media has made to fight fake news post-2016 will not be enough to keep up with the deluge of cyber propaganda surrounding these democratic exercises,” it said.

It noted that the motivation for fake news propagators will never go away, and the tools they use are likewise difficult to manage given that it is also used for “legitimate purposes.”

The transitioning of companies to the cloud was also flagged as a concern for this year. “Vulnerabilities found in cloud infrastructure, such as containers, and weak cloud security measures will allow greater exploitation of accounts for cryptocurrency mining, leading to more damaging breaches due to misconfigured systems,” the cybersecurity firm said.

Lastly, the increase in usage of AI is also seen to backfire on C-level executives as criminals may use the technology to trace their whereabouts. “This will lead to more convincing targeted phishing messages, which can be critical to BEC (business email compromise) attacks,” Trend Micro said.

The cybersecurity solutions firm said it is important for companies and individuals to learn the possible threats that they may equip themselves with necessary protective tools to ensure they are one stop ahead of digital attackers.

“As both corporate attacks surface and unknown cyber threats increase, it’s more important…for organizations to put more resources behind cybersecurity education to help protect against these growing attacks,” Mr. Felipe was quoted as saying. — Denise A. Valdez