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November 29, 2017

Expect machine learning ‘arms race’ & IoT ransomware in 2018, says McAfee

Organisations may have to innovate like never before in 2018, and strive to stay one step ahead of hackers harnessing machine learning.

By Tom Ball

Peering into the murky future of cybersecurity, McAfee has presented foresight for 2018 – and the road looks like it might be more perilous than ever before.

Machine learning is becoming increasingly prominent in the world of cybersecurity, with the technology implemented as a defence and working by sifting through vast quantities of data in search of threats.

With the defenders leveraging this technology, adversaries are also likely to tap into its potential and harness it for malicious purposes. McAfee warns of this in its first prediction in its 2018 Threats Predictions Report.

As defenders and attackers look to bolster and sharpen their tools with the technology, McAfee foresees an ‘arms race’ ensuing, with both sides developing more formidable uses of the technology to overcome the opponent.

Steve Grobman, Chief Technology Officer for McAfee, said: “We must recognise that although technologies such as machine learning, deep learning, and artificial intelligence will be cornerstones of tomorrow’s cyber defences, our adversaries are working just as furiously to implement and innovate around them. As is so often the case in cybersecurity, human intelligence amplified by technology will be the winning factor in the ‘arms race’ between attackers and defenders.”

The security company has also warned of the ongoing evolution of ransomware, believing that it is going to turn away from PC extortion as defences and awareness improve. Instead, McAfee predicts that ransomware will be used on unexpected but profitable targets like IoT devices.

Grobman said: “The evolution of ransomware in 2017 should remind us of how aggressively a threat can reinvent itself as attackers dramatically innovate and adjust to the successful efforts of defenders.”

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Raj Samani, Chief Scientist and Fellow at McAfee, said:  “While much about the motives behind WannaCry and NotPetya are still debated, the use of pseudo ransomware is likely to continue, partly due to the ease with which as-a-service providers can make such techniques available to anybody with the means to pay.”

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While these potential trends of 2018 are concerning, there are opportunities for major improvement and long-term change. For instance, with GDPR coming into operation it is prime time for data protection to finally become a priority for organisations.

Vincent Weafer, Vice President at McAfee Labs, said: “The year 2018 could well be remembered most for how we finally started to tackle data protection and for whether consumers truly have the right to be forgotten.  The large-scale gathering of personal information and user generated content opens consumers up to the risk of data misuse, abuse, and even compromise.

“Irresponsible service providers can overindulge in the gathering and monetization, allowing user privacy to be carried away by market forces, data to be compromised, and user reputations threatened years into the future. GDPR makes 2018 a critical year for establishing how responsible businesses can pre-empt these issues, respecting users’ privacy, responsibly using consumer data and content to enhance services, and setting limits on how long they can hold the data.”

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