Top 7 IT Security Threats for 2016

While the number of announced data breaches in 2015 is lower compared to 2014, the number of compromised accounts increased dramatically, exposing more personal data than ever before. Among the top causes is an increase in hidden attacks that use more advanced technics to bypass security mechanisms. In this article, we speculate on seven IT security trends and technologies that are most likely to affect organizations in 2016:

Attack surface will continue to grow. Interest in SaaS applications, BYOD, the cloud, IoT devices, wearables and self-driving cars make it hard to reduce all possible vulnerabilities. Hackers will continue to take advantage of insecure systems and devices, targeting with techniques that are more sophisticated. This will shift the focus from incident prevention to incident detection and attack response, which will encourage the development of new technologies to automate basic remediation and free up resources for mitigating security risks.

Personal data harvesting will gain traction. Criminals, hacktivists and state-backed hackers will continue to take advantage of personal data to craft sophisticated targeted phishing attacks, or even blackmail owners to gain access to critical systems and data. High demand for personal data and its growing value on the black market, along with advanced big data analytics, will allow hackers to more quickly collect and analyze large volumes of personal records from social media, healthcare, finance and government institutions.

Protection against insider threats will become a priority. The growing number of data breaches caused by human errors and malicious insiders, high costs and lack of mature and reliable mechanisms to prevent insider misuse will force IT security professionals to focus on gaining visibility into what users are doing across the network. This will encourage the development of solutions to track user activity and raise alerts about unusual behavior.

Account hijacking paves the way to the network. Acquisition of credentials becomes a more attractive way to gain direct access to a wide range of devices, data, services and applications. The ability to bypass all security mechanisms and act without arousing suspicion will stimulate adversaries to develop new methods of account theft, while companies will look for solutions for improved visibility into user activity, behavior analytics and multifactor authentication.

Cyber arms race will impact more people. Nation-states will continue investing in cyberwarfare to craft sophisticated targeted attacks against other governments, military networks, international businesses, critical infrastructure, and more. Cyber-attacks on the highest level will continue and there will be more notable large-scale cases. The race will lead to two major consequences that will eventually affect everybody: availability of advanced tools and malware for criminals, and collection of unprecedented volumes of personal data.

Demand for outsourced services will grow. As major cloud providers invest considerable effort into improving the quality of their services and deploying advanced security systems, they will see a growing demand for their services from companies that do not have the resources to ensure the same security level for business critical assets, and look for ways to achieve the goals with lower investments.

Virtual machine host firmware is at risk of hidden attacks. Leveraging firmware vulnerabilities will become an easy way to gain secret access to the entire physical machine with a virtual environment deployed. The number of firmware attacks is considerably low right now, but it has all the reasons to develop into a full threat that organizations will have to address.


Jeff is a Director of Global Solutions Engineering at Netwrix. He is a long-time Netwrix blogger, speaker, and presenter. In the Netwrix blog, Jeff shares lifehacks, tips and tricks that can dramatically improve your system administration experience.