McAfee forecasts growing cyber threats for the next five years

A more pervasive Internet means a greater bounty of threats, McAfee warns.

Driven by the online earthquake that is the explosive growth of Internet of Things, a tsunami of cybercrime and other hacking is heading our way, warns McAfee Labs in its 2016 Threat Predictions report.

In light of the mounting threat posed by hackers in an era of unprecedented connected technology, McAfee in August issued an initial report which peeked five years into the past, comparing anticipated cyber threats then to the attacks encountered today.

The final report, issued this week, forges into the future, mapping the turbulence consumers and organizations alike can expect to encounter as they navigate cyberspace in the next five years.

The findings, broadly, are not surprising: McAfee predicts a massive surge in digital devices — according to the Business Insider’s “The Connected-Car Report,” it points out, there will be 220 million connected cars on the road by 2020 — and a subsequent spike in hacking attempts across the board, from simple phishing and ransomware crime to hacktivists and nation state actors.


The largest changes, the report predicts, will be in the means by which hackers target victims. For example, hardware and critical infrastructure strikes along the lines of the stuxnet virus that crippled Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010, are expected to skyrocket.

“As new or different criminal actors and nation-states start to exercise their cyber threats, we may see more hardware-based attacks as a means to create chaos or deny service to an organization,” said Steven Grobman, chief technology officer of Intel Security.

McAfee, the company named after eccentric founder John McAfee, is being rebranded as Intel Security following its acquisition by Intel.

Security experts anticipate that hackers will enhance and conglomerate current techniques into more comprehensive attack structures, such as compiling stolen credit card, social security and other personally identifiable information to fabricate entire entities, instead of using traditionally simple fraud methods that are easily foiled. The report predicts that ransomware users will begin to warehouse stolen data, turning huge profits by selling information to the highest bidder instead of merely holding it hostage. It also discusses potential exploitation of wearables in order to track individual targets’ movements, providing an easy means to authenticate spear phishing attempts.

Despite an increase in the quantity and quality of cyber threats, however, McAfee remains confident that the new wave of hacking can be deflected through vigilance and, critically, the sharing of threat intelligence.


“Shared threat intelligence and collaboration is instrumental in rapidly combating the adversaries’ aggressive drive, whether they are targeting critical infrastructure, a company’s intellectual property, or an individual’s personal information,” Jeanette Jarvis, director of product management at Intel Security, said in the report. “…In 2016, metrics for success will begin to emerge so that customers and governments will have a better understanding about how much these cooperatives can enhance protection.”

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