As with many other aspects of life and business, 2022 held fewer overall surprises in cybersecurity than in recent years — thank goodness. Instead, many trends brewing over the past few years began to take clearer form. Some were unexpected, and many were predictable, but all are important to consider when making plans for security in 2023.

What overall trends did we see in 2022?

Ransomware continued to stay in the headlines in 2022. The share of breaches caused by ransomware grew 41% in the last year and took 49 days longer than the average breach to identify and contain. Ransomware gangs continued reemerging as new groups with the same key players after an arrest or major attack. And ransomware gangs are growing even more lucrative and powerful by selling ransomware as a service.

On a positive note, zero trust evolved from being a new concept to a best practice. As hybrid work became a way of life, more organizations have started adopting zero trust frameworks– meaning all users, apps and devices that request access are assumed to be unauthorized until proven otherwise. Organizations with a zero trust approach deployed saved nearly $1 million in average breach costs compared to organizations without zero trust deployed.

To get more insight into how 2022 trends are impacting the future of the industry, we talked to leading experts. Here’s what they have to say.

Ransomware attacks are rebounding — but not for all

Cyber criminals look for organizations or industries teetering at the edge and then make their move to tip them over. Last year, we saw that with manufacturing — a strained industry viewed as the backbone of supply chains. With the distinct possibility of a global recession on the horizon, we expect to see ransomware attacks spike in 2023. However, larger organizations in regions heavily impacted during the ransomware boom are the most prepared for this wave after investing time and money in fighting back.

– Charles Henderson, Global Managing Partner, Head of IBM Security X-Force

Opportunities for hackers-for-hire skyrocket amid a global recession

As operators offer new tools that dramatically lower the barrier of entry for less experienced and less technical cyber criminals, the cyber crime-as-a-service ecosystem may balloon in the year ahead. If the global economy faces a downturn, hackers-for-hire may emerge in search of quick and easy pay. We expect the biggest rise to be across Europe, considering geopolitical tensions and a challenging winter ahead.

– John Dwyer, Head of Research, IBM Security X-Force

Zero trust got 99 (implementation) problems

Now that it’s finally more than just a buzzword, security teams will accelerate zero trust adoption plans in 2023 — and make several missteps along the way. Without a deep understanding of trust relationships, implementations will fail. We already see security teams building “less trust” rather than “no trust” architectures, which opens the door to security gaps that adversaries may take advantage of in 2023.

– Charles Henderson, Global Managing Partner, Head of IBM Security X-Force

Social engineers are setting their sights on ICS systems

ICS/SCADA systems are essential to the daily operations of industrial manufacturers. Due to their importance, these systems are a top target for attackers. Yet while the tactics and techniques required to social engineer ICS systems differ from IT, the impact can be even more detrimental — going so far as the possible loss of life. Social engineers are already beginning to advance their techniques and tactics to more successfully gain access to these vulnerable systems. We anticipate social engineering to accelerate — with even more success — in the year ahead.

– Stephanie Carruthers, Chief People Hacker, IBM Security X-Force Red

Adversaries sidestep new security technologies

Almost as fast as the cybersecurity industry releases new security tools, adversaries evolve their techniques to circumvent them. This year will be no different. We expect to see cyber criminals set their sights more specifically on MFA and EDR technologies. With some attackers having succeeded at circumventing non-phishing-resistant MFA this past year — and more organizations relying on it than ever before — this technology will grow as a top target next year. Similarly, adversaries have been honing EDR evasion techniques. We expect to see a massive spike in the number of EDR evasion tools for sale on the dark web.

– John Dwyer, Head of Research, IBM Security X-Force

Specialists will double-back to generalists to secure the cloud in 2023

Hiring the talent required to secure the cloud will be a challenge for security leaders in 2023. One of the greatest hurdles stems from the large number of people needed in very niche, specialized roles. With so many companies increasingly going all-in on the cloud — and a skills crisis that’s worsening year by year — the solution to the skills gap lies in cybersecurity generalists. Organizations will recruit more generalists with successful track records, and build internal teams by reskilling specialists back to generalists.

– John Hendley, Head of Strategy, IBM Security X-Force

Automation will help defenders protect the “moat”

With data being more dispersed than ever the concept of protecting the “moat” is no longer a successful strategy — we now have too much surface area to cover. We’ll see more automated protection of the “moat”, so defenders can focus more time on detecting adversaries earlier and responding more effectively.

– Evan Anderson, Principal Technologist, Randori

Credential-stealing will continue to rise

Cyber criminals will continue to leverage large caches of leaked/stolen credentials to devastating effect. Many consumers and businesses are gradually migrating to password managers, passwordless and hardware identity tokens. However, the vast majority of the population continues to reuse credentials or variations of credentials between environments, systems or sites. Next year, we’ll see attacks against legacy second-factor authentication, such as SMS, continue, as will attacks against push-based multi-factor authentication solutions. Phishing and other attacks designed to capture authentication tokens will also rise.

– Dustin Heywood, Chief Architect, IBM Security X-Force

What else will 2023 bring?

Though the 2023 cyber forecast has become clearer, the current wild card is a potential looming recession and how the uncertain economy will affect cybersecurity spending – and attackers’ motivations. The early months of 2023 should provide insight into the direction the economy is likely to take. But no matter what the economy does, organizations that continue to prioritize cybersecurity will continue to reduce their risk of business disruption and reputational loss from major breaches.

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