Here are some predictions about what the cyber security landscape will look like in the coming year:
- Hacking as a terrorist activity will continue to escalate: As the Sony breach showed, not all harmful attacks are done for financial gain. The next year is likely to include more of these chaotic intrusions, causing civilian information to be exposed on the internet.
- Increased activity before October 2015: Cyber-criminals are expected to increase the magnitude and frequency of attacks in the months leading up to October, which is the deadline for retailers to convert to EMV chip-and-PIN systems so that they remain compliant with Payment Card Industry (PCI) data security standards.
- Major retailers will continue to be hacked, but the most significant breaches will occur in the healthcare industry: Cyber-criminals are attracted to hospitals and healthcare networks because of the vast amounts of information they store with relatively little security protecting them. Identity theft can occur when thieves get their hands on patients’ Social Security numbers, names and birthdays, both commonly included in medical forms. They can also use those records to perpetrate medical identity theft, which is when a criminal uses someone else’s health insurance to receive care.
- More digital vulnerabilities will be exploited: As Heartbleed and Shellshock were discovered in 2014, it’s likely that more existing network vulnerabilities will come to light in 2015.
- Phishing attempts will become more difficult to detect: Phishing occurs when cyber-criminals send official-looking emails to solicit private information or ask the user to click on a link, causing an automatic download of malware that then steals the user’s personal data. These emails are expected to grow more sophisticated in 2015. Hackers might set up websites that look legitimate, encouraging users to fall for the scam.
- The cloud will become a bigger target: Next year, more and more internet users will begin storing private information on the cloud. It’s therefore highly likely that hackers will target mobile devices in order to gain access to cloud passwords.
- Transactions will increasingly move to mobile devices: Online banking and shopping will become part of everyday mobile use, opening consumers up to higher risk of credit card identity theft.
The past year was a turning point in cyber-security, with major retail breaches occurring almost monthly and the Sony breach opening businesses up to the realization that attacks can lead to not only financial loss but also to disorganization and turmoil within a company. As a result, 2015 will likely include both more breaches and an increase in digital security on the part of companies across the United States.
Consumers are also expected to tighten up security practices and put more energy into identity theft protection. Of course, no one can prevent identity theft completely, but all consumers can take precautions in order to keep their personal information as secure as possible.