13 predictions for cyber security, the threat landscape, firewall and mobile security for 2014


Cyber security is now a topic with implications for every major line of business and market segment. Palo Alto Networks shares its 13 predictions for cyber security, the threat landscape, firewall and mobile security for 2014.

1. Securing the mobile device will be inextricably linked to securing the network. With freedom of choice comes risk.  Megatrends like BYOD and the rise of the mobile workforce are providing fertile ground for cyber criminals and nation states looking to capitalise on devices operating over unprotected networks. The scales have historically been tipped, leaving enterprises vulnerable to a new breed of advanced threats targeting mobile devices. In 2014, threat intelligence gained within the enterprise network will offer new defence capabilities for mobile devices operating outside protected networks. Intelligence gained by mobile devices will offer new signature capabilities to further strengthen enterprise networks.

2. Cloud will get a security makeover. Innovations in network virtualisation are enabling automation and transparent network insertion of next-generation security services into the cloud. Security has remained one of the greatest barriers preventing cloud computing from reaching its full potential. In 2014 next-generation network security and network virtualisation will come together to form a new paradigm for cloud security.

3. Detection times will decrease. Enterprise security has undergone a massive transformation since the introduction of the Next-Generation Firewall (NGFW). This has long since moved from an emerging technology to one that’s universally deployed. Newer, advanced security services are letting enterprises gain new advantages in detecting unknown threats and gather that information into a threat intelligence cloud that’s developing an impressively high IQ. The net result will be a measurable reduction in the time it takes to detect a breach.

4. There will be a heightened need for better intelligence and sharing on cyber threats. The new era of network security is based on automated processes and building as much intelligence as possible into network security software. This is especially important in industries such as government, education and healthcare, in which there are staffing shortages. Limited staff need maximum resources including security tools that give them the most visibility into their network traffic and don’t sacrifice business productivity.

5. Security will meet reliability as attacks target control systems. Companies may be able to apply tight network security to data centres and the information they manage. But if they’re not doing the same for certain data centre support systems such as HVAC, cooling and other automated systems that help power, clean and maintain a data centre, they’re leaving the whole data centre vulnerable. Data centres are required to meet the highest levels of reliability which cannot be achieved unless all of its components, from uplinks and storage to chillers and HVAC systems, are fully fault tolerant and protected from vulnerability and cyber attacks. These types of attacks, in which smart hackers target the weakest parts of a data centre support infrastructure, will continue.

6. The demand for cyber security and incident response (IR) skills will reach new highs. As more advanced threats have become commonplace, the demands on existing IR teams have begun to outstrip capacity, especially in enterprises and government entities. A recent survey by the Ponemon Institute found that only 26 per cent of security professionals felt they had the security expertise needed to keep up with advanced threats. Computer science programs will continue to adapt to this trend with more focused training in cyber security disciplines.

7. Advanced attackers will move to mobile devices. A wave of crime ware and fraud has already begun to target mobile devices, which are ripe targets for new malware and a logical place for new threat vectors. Mobile platforms will be uniquely leveraged by advanced persistent threats (APTs) thanks to the ability to use GPS location to pinpoint individual targets and use cellular connectivity to keep command and control away from enterprise security measures.

8. Financially motivated malware will make a comeback and the lines between APTs and organised crime will blur. The focus of enterprise security will again be on the attacks where money changes hands. Banking and fraud botnets will continue to be some of the most common types of malware. Meanwhile, attribution of APTs is becoming more of a focus in the industry, which means that more hacker groups will spend more time attempting to cover their tracks and hide any unique identifiers. To do so, they will attempt to imitate, contract with or even infiltrate criminally-focused hacking organisations to provide cover for their operations.

9. Organisations will exert more control over remote access tools. The revelations of how commonly remote access tools such as RDP, SSH and TeamViewer are used to attack networks will force organisations to exert greater control over these tools. These applications provide support and development teams with powerful tools to simplify their jobs but they are used commonly by attackers. Employees also use these tools to mask what they’re doing on the corporate network as a means of protecting privacy. Browser plugins such as Remote Desktop and uProxy for Google Chrome will make these tools more accessible and increase the challenge of controlling their use on the corporate network. User privacy is critically important, but users also need to understand that these applications can jeopardise the business. The challenge will be how organisations can best implement controls without limiting productivity.

10. Cyber lockers and cloud-based file sharing will continue to grow, despite the risks. Palo Alto Networks has been watching browser-based file sharing applications since 2008, when it identified a pool of roughly 10 variants in this group. As of this year, Palo Alto Networks is tracking more than 100 variants, and according to its research an average of 13 of these applications are found on networks it analyses. In many cases, there is no business use case for this many variants. While there is business value for some of these applications they do present business and security risks if they’re used too casually. The risks will continue to escalate as vendors try to broaden their appeal to users and differentiate themselves by adding premium, always-on, always-synched features.

11. The mobile OS ecosystem is too big for patchwork protection. The mobile ecosystem is much more complicated and far-reaching than Windows. Too much of what’s being described as mobile security is based on buying add-ons for different devices running different operating systems – a scattershot model doomed to fail. Rather than focus on securing individual devices, organisations need to look for security solutions that extend next-generation firewall policies across the full range of mobility use cases, independent of OS.

12. Mobile security issues turn security admins’ attention outside the firewall. Still too many mobile security solutions protect a user’s mobile device while they’re behind the corporate firewall but don’t enforce mobile security policy when users are outside it. Facebook was hacked earlier this year, for example, when employees connected to a mobile developer’s compromised website, downloaded malware and then introduced it to Facebook’s internal servers when they were back behind the firewall. Expect to hear similar stories in 2014, and hopefully a shifting debate on how to solve these challenges.

13. “Lock it down” just won’t play. Many organisations still take a “lock it down” approach to mobile security and have put policies into effect that are so strict they eliminate the productivity and flexibility benefits of BYOD. The mushrooming popularity of smartphones and tablets means users will find a way to use them on networks whether admins like it or not. In 2014, a majority of organisations will finally turn away from the “lock it down” approach in favour of a mobile security model that gives users some breathing room while preserving the secure enterprise network.


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