Part of being a part of the cybersecurity industry means looking ahead to the future and anticipating what’s to come. For most of us, we should expect a 2024 that is largely dominated by AI discussion. With the cybersecurity industry growing rapidly, AI is at the forefront of every organization’s cyber plans and plays an integral role in all technological advances.
While 2023 saw the first widespread use of AI and its initial hype and reaction to its endless possibilities, we should see AI being applied in many more practical and specific ways.
Part of predicting the latest news in cybersecurity is learning how to stay ahead of the game and protecting yourself against new cyber threats, new attack methods, and new technology. Let’s take a look at some of the predictions for this coming year.
AI-driven cyber attacks will become more prevalent
In 2023, artificial intelligence technology took the world by storm, and its widespread adoption was a key focus for many businesses. The capability of AI technology to optimize processes to maximize efficiency, analyze massive data sets, and, most importantly, identify and respond to looming cyber threats became a major area of investment.
However, just as businesses and organizations can harness the power of AI, so can cybercriminals and other threat actors. The potential for AI to create new phishing attacks through AI-generated deepfakes, execute large-scale botnet attacks, or hack systems through massive coordinated cyber attacks is enormous. There have already been early versions of malicious generative AI platforms, such as WormGPT, circulating around the dark web.
Through AI, organizations around the world will encounter unprecedented challenges that they have never seen before in 2024. Ultimately, it will be up to organizations to adopt a multi-faceted approach to using AI. They must find ways to utilize AI tools and services to protect themselves against external attacks and the latest open vulnerabilities, particularly in highly targeted industries like healthcare or finance.
Generative AI (GenAI) will begin to reinvent threat detection and response methodologies
While many people and businesses are still figuring out how to maximize the usage of generative AI to improve productivity or streamline processes, the next step for GenAI technology will be to completely restructure how most organizations tackle their threat detection and response programs. GenAI has the potential to significantly enhance current threat detection methodologies through advanced pattern recognition and predictive analytics to identify anomalies and other attack patterns that may indicate a security threat.
Modern threat intelligence is limited by its traditional rule-based systems, such as looking for indicators of compromise (IOCs), using existing TTP hunting data, or other contextual information in the current threat landscape. However, most of the data that threat intelligence methods rely on today use only known methods and techniques. Threat actors are constantly using new cyber attack tactics with even more sophistication, which requires the use of tools like GenAI to predict and detect threats with far more accuracy and lead time.
Just as GenAI can be used for malicious purposes, organizations will begin to figure out how to use it to build even stronger security measures in 2024.
AI regulation and policymaking will become a major point of contention
As AI becomes more widely used and practical, regulating AI will be extremely challenging in the coming year. We’ve already seen ChatGPT experience a data breach early in its lifecycle and Samsung employees accidentally leaking confidential company data while using ChatGPT. However, because AI is so new to the cyber landscape, it is still largely misunderstood, and there is a lack of knowledge and expertise around it to regulate the technology.
Cyber regulations are necessary to protect user privacy and human rights and to promote transparency and safety when it comes to data. Although there may be best practices or recommendations for using AI tools, it has mostly been up to the organizations utilizing the tools to determine their usage. While 2023 focused more on how AI should be used, more actionable policies and regulations will emerge in 2024.
There have already been early attempts at creating AI legislation last year. In late 2023, the EU approved the EU AI Act, set to be implemented in 2024, which categorizes AI systems by risk level, ranging from ‘minimal’ to ‘unacceptable’. In addition, the act aims to require more transparency from companies using AI systems, hold them accountable should any AI systems be misused, and instill stricter requirements before AI systems can be deployed.
However, many EU businesses have already begun to push back, stating that many of the requirements for high to unacceptable-risk AI systems and non-compliance penalties are too high. As more regulating bodies begin to create policies around AI usage, we should expect to see further debate about how AI should be managed.
More security breaches than ever will be the result of insider threats
In one Gartner report, they predict that by 2025, more than half of significant cyber incidents will be due to a lack of talent or human failure. Simply put, many organizations have not adequately trained their employees on good cybersecurity practices. Insider risk is already one of the leading causes of data breaches and leaks.
If there is not a stronger push for cybersecurity education and training in 2024, we may see a big jump in cyber incidents as a direct result of poor training and internal risk management processes. Security leaders must consider incorporating employee management when they are building out cybersecurity programs and create more visibility into the potential risks that poorly trained workers can have.
Lack of cybersecurity workforce talent will lead to more security gaps
In a study by ISC2, the cybersecurity workforce shortage reached 4 million in late 2023, growing nearly 10% from the previous year. The shortage is a result of a number of reasons, from economic uncertainty, budget cutbacks, and tech layoffs mixed with increased demand due to emerging threats, changing threat landscapes, and the advancement of AI.
Many security teams are grossly understaffed, meaning organizations may be ill-equipped or ill-prepared to respond to cyber incidents sufficiently. In many cases, cybersecurity is still one of the first teams to get cut within businesses simply because many companies do not yet understand the business importance of maintaining safe and secure systems.
However, staffing shortages are not the only problem. Many businesses also experience a large skill gap in their security teams, meaning they struggle to find qualified individuals with the right skills to manage their security programs. Barring a significant push in 2024 to hire and train individuals to fill these gaps, we may see even more cyber attacks occur due to a lack of talent.
The use of password-less authentication will begin to grow
In IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023, it was found that stolen credentials and phishing attacks were the leading attack vectors in 2023. This means that cybercrime has shifted away from using malware and hacking to gain unauthorized access to systems and towards using methods to steal valid credentials.
Currently, methods such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) are used to combat cases of stolen credentials by requiring a second form of verification. While still very effective, we may see more online services begin to adopt even more secure options in password-less authentication methods in 2024. This includes:
- One-time passwords (OTP) or time-based one-time passwords (TOTP)
- Third-party authentication apps
- Biometric scanning
- Public-key cryptography
Long gone are the traditional username and password combination to protect access to accounts or systems; the use of password-less solutions will quickly remove the need for people to remember their passwords and create a more seamless and secure way to unlock devices or log in to accounts.
More incentive-based cybersecurity programs will lead to better nationwide security
Adopting cybersecurity programs has been a slow process despite the rapid developments in recent years. Whether it’s a lack of understanding or a lack of prioritization, cybersecurity programs are often first on the chopping block when it comes to budget cuts or layoffs. Many organizations don’t see cybersecurity as a business necessity yet, even though small to mid-size corporations often see at least a 20% increase in data breach costs compared to larger organizations (IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023).
However, the White House in the US aims to combat this by offering incentives to encourage businesses to implement cybersecurity best practices. In 2023, we already saw four states begin this incentivized effort (Ohio, Utah, Connecticut, and Iowa). Until a nationwide law can be passed to establish a minimum security standard, offering voluntary incentive programs for cybersecurity can help jumpstart the process. We may see more states follow suit soon as a sweeping effort to build stronger cybersecurity nationwide and globally.