Hackers will employ new techniques as well as strike new targets next year. For example, WatchGuard Technologies CTO Corey Nachreiner sees a wave of automated spear phishing campaigns coming.
“Historically, spear fishing is a high-investment and potentially high-return activity for hackers that has required manual and time-consuming processes,” he says. “That will change in 2021. Cyber criminals have already started to create tools that can automate the manual aspects of spear phishing. By combining such tools with programs that scan data from social media networks and company websites, phishers can send thousands of detailed, believable spear phishing emails, with content customized to each victim. This will dramatically increase the volume of spear phishing emails attackers can send at once, which will improve their success rate.”
On the bright side, he adds, automated spear phishing attacks are likely to be less sophisticated than the traditional kind, and therefore easier to spot.
A newfangled threat that’s less easy to spot, computer-generated “deepfake” videos, will show up in greater volumes next year too, according to Dr. Andrew Newell, chief scientific officer at “genuine presence assurance” vendor iProov.
“What was once a very complicated process, only possible in Hollywood movie studios, is now something that any teenager sitting in their bedroom can execute proficiently,” he says. Deepfake pranks and entertainment will proliferate as a result, he continues, but so too will darker uses of the technology.
“Celebrities, politicians, and other experts will be shown saying things that they’ve never said. Armies of ‘fake people’ who look and sound real will share disinformation on an enormous scale online,” Newell says.
Petr Somol, AI research director at Avast, shares similar fears. “Deepfakes will likely reach a quality next year where they can be actively used in disinformation campaigns,” he warns. “Conspiracy theories about the coronavirus, such as its alleged spread via 5G, could be reemphasized via deepfake videos, for example wrongly showing politicians as conspirators.”
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