Nisos 2024 Predictions: 5 Cyber-Physical Risk Trends to Watch in 2024

by | Dec 19, 2023 | Blog

As we stand on the threshold of 2024, leaders in cybersecurity, trust and safety, and corporate security are confronted with a formidable journey ahead. Our adversaries are not simply anonymous figures hidden behind programming scripts, but individuals driven by motives that extend beyond the digital realm. They possess the expertise and resources to launch both spontaneous and premeditated attacks, exploiting vulnerabilities in various dimensions to achieve their goal.

Unhindered by legal boundaries, cybercriminals, fraudsters, and thieves are now at the forefront of technological innovation. They continually push their abilities to the limit, honing their tools and methods to incapacitate systems, breed widespread skepticism, and inflict palpable damage.

Cybersecurity has expanded beyond the digital world, with cyber risks merging seamlessly with physical. This convergence has created a dynamic battlefield where threat actors operate with unparalleled agility. Consequently, in 2024, security teams will contend with the growing interconnection between cyber and physical threats to their business.

Here are five ways the interconnected nature of threats will become evident:

1. Disinformation efforts will evolve beyond coordinated, inauthentic behavior, to incorporate new methods of influence and control

As geopolitical waters become more turbulent, and with the US election season fast approaching, China, Russia, and Iran promise to redouble their efforts to sow confusion and discord across the globe as they further their own goals of expanded influence. The use of sockpuppets, comment spamming, and bots to amplify narratives will continue to evolve to be more difficult to detect, thanks to AI and other tools.

Influence operations in Latin America in 2022-2023 demonstrate this evolution. The China News Service used to hijack permissions to invasively access and potentially take over subscribers’ Twitter, Sina Weibo, and Weixin accounts to push pro-Beijing content. Worse still, companies offering election manipulation services that leverage fake social media accounts, AI, and other digital assets now operate as legitimate businesses in some parts of the world.

2. The lines between threat actor groups will become increasingly opaque

In May 2023, a New Jersey appellate court ruled $1.4B in favor of policyholder Merck that a group of insurers could not leverage their war clause exclusion to avoid paying for losses related to the 2017 NotPetya attack, despite the court concluding that a relationship between Russia and the eventual actors was likely. The case was the first attempt by the court to determine to what degree members of a cybercriminal community could be considered part of the same criminal organization.

While nation-state support for offensive cyber operations appears to be on the rise globally, especially as a result of the military conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, organizations will face a host of nebulous new geopolitical risks spawning from changing cyber threats, shifting TTPs, new alliances, and/or evolving motivations.

These issues will likely be compounded by new transformative technology, further complicating the understanding of threat actor intent and affiliation at a time when positive attribution is increasingly required for cyber insurance, litigation, and prosecution.

3. Transnational fraud networks will be unmasked, driving the need for more international law enforcement coordination

Sophisticated scamming networks are on the rise, targeting consumers, retailers, and financial institutions with increasingly creative methods of making a buck. The anonymity of the deep and dark web makes coordinating a criminal network easier than ever, allowing scammers to obtain stolen payment information and monetize their attacks.

A look behind the scenes of a major chargeback scam network uncovered in 2023 reveals a complex operation recruiting scammers, establishing shell companies, setting up virtual locations, creating digital storefronts, processing payments, and even defending the validity of a charge during a dispute process.

4. Losses from Organized Retail Crime will reach $200 billion in 2024

Large-scale retail harms major and minor retailers through product theft, as well as unwitting consumer victims who are usually unaware of the purchase’s origin. Separate from typical shoplifting committed by individuals stealing goods for personal use, organized retail crime (ORC) syndicates typically steal large quantities of merchandise from stores or cargo locations to resell online, at independent locations, or through other retailers.

Within the last six months, major retailers have cited ORC as significantly affecting company performance, increasing concerns about employee safety, and influencing company considerations for store closures. Losses are poised to skyrocket, potentially driving domestic policy change, higher law enforcement prioritization, and the need for more public-private coordination.

5. AI gives threat actors a new bag of tricks

Since the public release of ChatGPT in November 2022, we have been living in a brave new world. Roughly 5% of employees admit to using ChatGPT to help answer work-related questions, and the tool’s popularity spawned a host of malicious downloadable desktop clients, user tutorials, and imposter social media accounts that push ransomware and other threats to unsuspecting victims.

We’re seeing the first signs of AI used in phishing attacks and automated malware development, with tools able to identify vulnerabilities, correct syntax errors in phishing emails, build Zero Day viruses via prompts, and make a whole new class of lives-in-memory polymorphic malware possible.

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