FortiGuard Labs Foresees Generative AI and CaaS as 'Easy' Buttons for Cyberattacks

‘Get off my lawn’: Cybercrime turf wars will emerge and intensify between cybercrime groups, with multiple adversaries focusing on the same targets.

Fortinet, the cybersecurity company driving the convergence of networking and security, unveiled predictions from the FortiGuard Labs global threat intelligence and research team about the cyber threat landscape for the next 12 months and beyond. The 2024 threat predictions report explores the impact of artificial intelligence on the cyber warfare paradigm, highlighting emergent threat trends set to shape the digital landscape in the coming year and beyond.

In an era marked by the proliferation of Cybercrime-as-a-Service (CaaS) operations and the advent of generative AI, threat actors now possess an array of "easy" buttons, facilitating the execution of attacks. Leveraging the expanding capabilities in their arsenals, adversaries are poised to elevate the sophistication of their activities. The imminent threat landscape is expected to surge in targeted and stealthy hacks meticulously crafted to circumvent robust security controls. This evolution, coupled with increased agility in executing attack cycles, underscores the urgent need for organizations worldwide to fortify their collective resilience against evolving cybercriminal tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs).

The evolution of old favorites

FortiGuard Labs has been observing many fan-favorite attack tactics for years and the "classics" aren't going away. Instead, they evolve and advance as attackers gain access to new resources. In addition to the evolution of APT operations, we predict that cybercrime groups, in general, will diversify their targets and playbooks, focusing on more sophisticated and disruptive attacks and setting their sights on denial of service and extortion.

Cybercrime "turf wars" continue, with multiple attack groups homing in on the same targets and deploying ransomware variants, often within 24 hours or less. The weaponization of generative AI will fuel an already raging fire, giving attackers an easy means of enhancing many stages of their attacks. We are already witnessing cybercriminals increasingly use AI to support malicious activities in new ways, ranging from thwarting the detection of social engineering to mimicking human behavior. 

Fresh threat trends to watch for in 2024 and beyond

Next-level playbooks: Over the past few years, ransomware attacks worldwide have skyrocketed, making every organization, regardless of size or industry, a target. Yet, as many cybercriminals launch ransomware attacks to attain a lucrative payday, cybercrime groups are quickly exhausting smaller, easier-to-hack targets. Looking ahead, we predict attackers will take a "go big or go home" approach, with adversaries turning their focus to critical industries—such as healthcare, finance, transportation, and utilities—that if hacked, would have a sizeable adverse impact on society and make for a more substantial payday for the attacker. They’ll also expand their playbooks, making their activities more personal, aggressive, and destructive.

It's a new day for zero days: As organizations expand the number of platforms, applications, and technologies they rely on for daily business operations, cybercriminals have unique opportunities to uncover and exploit software vulnerabilities. We've observed a record number of zero days and new Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) emerge in 2023, and that count is still rising. Given how valuable zero days can be for attackers, we expect to see zero-day brokers—cybercrime groups selling zero days on the dark web to multiple buyers—emerge among the CaaS community. N-days will continue to pose significant risks for organizations as well.

Playing the inside game: Many organizations are leveling up their security controls and adopting new technologies and processes to strengthen their defenses. These enhanced controls make it more difficult for attackers to infiltrate a network externally, so cyber criminals must find new ways to reach their targets. Given this shift, we predict that attackers will continue to shift left with their tactics, reconnaissance, and weaponization, with groups beginning to recruit from inside target organizations for initial access purposes.

Ushering in “we the people” attacks: Looking ahead, we expect to see attackers take advantage of more geopolitical happenings and event-driven opportunities, such as the 2024 U.S. elections and the Paris 2024 games. While adversaries have always targeted major events, cybercriminals now have new tools—generative AI—to support their activities.

Narrowing the TTP playing field: Attackers will continue to expand the TTPs they use to compromise their targets. Yet defenders can gain an advantage by finding ways to disrupt those activities. While most of the day-to-day work done by cybersecurity defenders is related to blocking indicators of compromise, there's great value in taking a closer look at what the TTPs attackers regularly use, which will help narrow the playing field and find potential “choke points on the chess board.”

Making space for more 5G attacks: With access to an ever-increasing array of connected technologies, cybercriminals will inevitably find new opportunities for compromise. With more devices coming online every day, we anticipate that cybercriminals will take greater advantage of connected attacks in the future. A successful attack against 5G infrastructure could easily disrupt critical industries such as oil and gas, transportation, public safety, finance, and healthcare.

Navigating a new era of cybercrime

Cybercrime impacts everyone, and the ramifications of a breach are often far-reaching. Our security community can take a number of actions to anticipate the next move of cybercriminals better and disrupt their activities: collaborating across the public and private sectors to share threat intelligence, adopting standardized measures for incident reporting, and more. Organizations also have a vital role to play in disrupting cybercrime. This starts with creating a culture of cyber resilience—making cybersecurity everyone’s job—by implementing ongoing initiatives such as enterprise-wide cybersecurity education programs and more focused activities like tabletop exercises for executives.

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