Security Trends 2015: Developments in Exploits and Evasion

    2014 was by far one of the worst years for cybersecurity exploits in history. It seemed that news outlets were reporting a new major data breach every few days. And while breaches affecting Target, Home Depot, Sony and others grabbed the headlines, organizations across the world were being attacked on a continual basis. McAfee Labs reported in December that during the third quarter of 2014, it had detected more than 307 new threats every minute, or more than five every second, with mobile malware samples growing by 16 percent, and overall malware surging by a whopping 76 percent year over year.

    So what can we expect in 2015? McAfee Labs predicts that malicious parties will focus on extended targeted attack campaigns, and will become more aggressive in their efforts to identify application, operating system, and network vulnerabilities – while working to break through the limitations of sandboxing technologies.

    “The year 2014 will be remembered as ‘the Year of Shaken Trust,'” said Vincent Weafer, senior vice president, McAfee Labs, part of Intel Security. “This unprecedented series of events shook industry confidence in long-standing Internet trust models, consumer confidence in organizations’ abilities to protect their data, and organizations’ confidence in their ability to detect and deflect targeted attacks in a timely manner. Restoring trust in 2015 will require stronger industry collaboration, new standards for a new threat landscape, and new security postures that shrink time-to-detection through the superior use of threat data. Ultimately, we need to get to a security model that’s built-in by design, seamlessly integrated into every device at every layer of the compute stack.”

    This slideshow features the top nine security trends McAfee has identified for 2015.

    Security Trends 2015: Developments in Exploits and Evasion - slide 1

    2015 Security Preview

    Click through for the top nine security trends for 2015, as identified by McAfee Labs.

    Security Trends 2015: Developments in Exploits and Evasion - slide 2

    Cyber Warfare and Espionage Tactics

    Increased use of cyber warfare and espionage tactics. Cyber espionage attacks will continue to increase in frequency as long-term players will become stealthier information gatherers, while newcomers to cyber attack capabilities will look for ways to steal sensitive information and disrupt their adversaries.

    • Established nation-state actors will work to enhance their ability to remain hidden on victim systems and networks.
    • Cyber criminals will continue to act more like nation-state cyber espionage actors, focusing on monitoring systems and gathering high-value intelligence on individuals, intellectual property, and operational intelligence.
    • McAfee Labs predicts that more small nation states and terror groups will use cyber warfare.

    Security Trends 2015: Developments in Exploits and Evasion - slide 3

    Internet of Things

    Greater Internet of Things attack frequency, profitability, and severity. Unless security controls are built in to their architectures from the beginning, the rush to deploy IoT devices at scale will outpace the priorities of security and privacy. This rush and the increasing value of data gathered, processed, and shared by these devices will draw the first notable IoT paradigm attacks in 2015.

    • The increasing proliferation of IoT devices in environments such as health care could provide malicious parties access to personal data even more valuable than credit card data. For instance, according to the McAfee Labs report entitled Cybercrime Exposed: Cybercrime-as-a-Service, the cyber crime community currently values stolen health credentials at around $10 each, which is about 10 to 20 times the value of a stolen U.S. credit card number.

    Security Trends 2015: Developments in Exploits and Evasion - slide 4


    Privacy debates intensify. Data privacy will continue to be a hot topic as governments and businesses continue to grapple with what is fair and authorized access to inconsistently defined “personal information.”

    • In 2015 we will see continued discussion and lack of clarity around what constitutes “personal information” and to what extent that information may be accessed and shared by state or private actors.
    • We will see a continued evolution in scope and content of data privacy rules and regulations – we may even see laws begin to regulate the use of previously anonymous data sets.
    • The European Union, countries in Latin America, as well as Australia, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and many others may enact more stringent data privacy laws and regulations.

    Security Trends 2015: Developments in Exploits and Evasion - slide 5


    Ransomware evolves into the cloud. Ransomware will evolve its methods of propagation, encryption, and the targets it seeks. More mobile devices are likely to suffer attacks.

    • McAfee predicts ransomware variants that manage to evade security software installed on a system will specifically target endpoints that subscribe to cloud-based storage solutions.
    • Once the endpoint has been infected, the ransomware will attempt to exploit the logged-on user’s stored credentials to also infect backed-up cloud storage data.
    • McAfee expects the technique of ransomware targeting cloud-backed-up data to be repeated in the mobile space.
    • McAfee expects a continued rise in mobile ransomware using virtual currency as the ransom payment method.

    Security Trends 2015: Developments in Exploits and Evasion - slide 6

    Mobile Devices

    New mobile attack surfaces and capabilities. Mobile attacks will continue to grow rapidly as new mobile technologies expand the attack surface.

    • The growing availability of malware-generation kits and malware source code for mobile devices will lower the barrier to entry for cyber criminals targeting these devices.
    • Untrusted app stores will continue to be a major source of mobile malware. Traffic to these stores will be driven by “malvertising,” which has grown quickly on mobile platforms.

    Security Trends 2015: Developments in Exploits and Evasion - slide 7

    POS Attacks

    POS attacks increase and evolve with digital payments. Point-of-sale (POS) attacks will remain lucrative, and a significant upturn in consumer adoption of digital payment systems on mobile devices will provide new attack surfaces that cyber criminals will exploit.

    • Despite current efforts by retailers to deploy more chip-and-pin cards and card readers, McAfee Labs sees continued growth in POS system breaches in 2015 based on the sheer numbers of POS devices that will need to be upgraded in North America.
    • Near field communications (NFC) digital payment technology will become an entirely new attack surface to exploit, unless user education can successfully guide users in taking control of NFC features on their mobile devices.

    Security Trends 2015: Developments in Exploits and Evasion - slide 8


    Shellshock sparks UNIX, Linux attacks. Non-Windows malware attacks will increase as a result of the Shellshock vulnerability.

    • McAfee Labs predicts that the aftershocks of Shellshock will be felt for many years given the number of potentially vulnerable UNIX and Linux devices, from routers to TVs, industrial controllers, flight systems and critical infrastructure.
    • In 2015, this will drive a significant increase in non-Windows malware as attackers look to exploit the vulnerability.

    Security Trends 2015: Developments in Exploits and Evasion - slide 9

    Software Flaws

    Growing exploitation of software flaws. The exploitation of vulnerabilities is likely to increase as new flaws are discovered in popular software products.

    • McAfee Labs predicts that exploitation techniques such as stack pivoting, return- and jump-oriented programming, and a deeper understanding of 64-bit software will continue to drive the growth in the number of newly discovered vulnerabilities, as will the volume of malware that exploits those newly discovered vulnerabilities.

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    Sandbox Evasion

    New evasion tactics for sandboxing. Escaping the sandbox will become a significant IT security battlefield.

    • Vulnerabilities have been identified in the sandboxing technologies implemented with critical and popular applications. McAfee Labs predicts a growth in the number of techniques to exploit those vulnerabilities and escape application sandboxes.
    • Beyond application sandboxing, McAfee Labs predicts that 2015 will bring malware that can successfully exploit hypervisor vulnerabilities to break out of some security vendors’ standalone sandbox systems.

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