Thoughts around threat landscapes commonly prioritize corporate and governmental networks assets as high priorities, with personal networks and resources as lower-level threats. However, there have been recent changes that have caused the reassessment of prioritization levels at times.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of individuals who work from home has greatly increased. In fact, Stanford researcher Nicholas Bloom places the percentage of people currently working at home at over 40%.
This drastic change has provided bad actors with more opportunities to prey on remote workers, forcing a reassessment of the risk level of home networks. Today’s threat landscape must now include personal computing assets as high-risk and high-value targets, due to the often-sensitive data being accessed outside of the traditional protection of corporate networks.
The digital divide has contributed to the changing threat landscape
In a changing threat landscape, the digital divide that remains in our country — where large segments of society have limited access to technology or an inability to use it securely — is a continued concern. People who may lack the skills needed to protect themselves from even the simplest attacks now use their computers for education, work and play. In many situations, multiple family members utilize the same electronic device, greatly increasing the chance for exposure to malware.
Educators who may have not previously utilized technology are now sharing files as part of their daily online classroom interactions, which could introduce malware onto their devices. The requirement of many districts and educational institutions to quickly transition to online learning meant doing so quickly, without implementing some of the training and cybersecurity protocols that are part of traditional online models.
The COVID-19 pandemic increased health and legal cybersecurity concerns
Effects of the digital divide have been felt in both urban and rural environments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other industries that did not traditionally work from home but are now doing so in greater numbers include workers in the healthcare field and those in the legal profession.
For example, telehealth allows medical and mental health providers to deliver critical services remotely. Lawyers, paralegals and others involved in the legal profession are routinely accessing confidential information outside of corporate protections. Without a proper security framework, clients’ sensitive healthcare records, live health screenings and personally identifiable information (PII) have the potential to be compromised.
The Internet of Things and the security risk to critical infrastructures
While personal networks are a significant concern, a growing Internet of Things (IoT) has exposed devices to cyberattacks that a few years ago would never have been included in most threat landscape models. Modern farming equipment incorporates large amounts of technology — including data centers, networks, satellites and even artificial intelligence (AI) — to allow farmers to more efficiently manage agriculture.
A successful large-scale attack by either a lone individual or nation-state could potentially damage our food supply. Our food supply is one of 17 sectors identified by the Department of Homeland Security as a part of our critical infrastructure.
Drones can compromise privacy and potentially be used as weapons
Another IoT device category, drones, poses a multilayered threat. For instance, privacy levels can be reduced as physical fencing barriers can easily be defeated with any commercially available drone. A drone’s owner could use it to easily spy on others as well as potentially using the drone as a weapon.
Organizations as well as security-minded individuals must incorporate drone technology risks in a threat landscape analysis and physical security mitigation methods. Smart vehicles represent another potential area for exploitation. The remote manipulation by threat actors of safety-assistive features, such as braking, parking and lane assistance, are potentially life-threatening.
Changing priorities to cope with changing threats
While some technologies such as social media and wireless technologies have long been incorporated in threat models, the levels of risk have risen in recent times as greater numbers of individuals use social media as a news source. According to Forbes, more than half of Americans receive their news by social media.
The manipulation of video using techniques such as deep fake make it increasingly difficult to recognize altered videos in social media. Conspiracy theories are often shared online as facts, introducing yet more confusion in actual messaging to users looking for current news. The risk of wireless technology remains constant; however, the more widespread use of 5G has introduced additional vulnerabilities.
Previous mobile network topology provided for fewer pieces of hardware at which point traffic could be monitored. But because of the decentralized nature of 5G, it is necessary to implement monitoring and security solutions on an exponentially greater number of devices. Also, the increased bandwidth and ability to add large numbers of IoT devices will require security solutions that are scalable and able to respond rapidly in order to provide a secure computing environment.
Understanding today’s threat landscape is critical to developing strategies and solutions to establish a strong cybersecurity framework. The adoption of new innovations creates an environment where threat landscapes can change quickly.
It is critical for both organizations and individuals to not become complacent and remain vigilant, regularly defending their threat landscape. While there are multiple threats today for homes and businesses, we must develop strategies to better protect ourselves from these threats while identifying future ones. Stay vigilant!