Written by Joseph Regan
Published on December 16, 2019

We’ll be working hard to stop them, of course, but since knowledge is power and we want you all to feel as powerful as possible, here are some of the biggest problems we foresee 2020 has in store.

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    1. More dangerous IoT attacks

    Every year we get more IoT (Internet of Things) devices that are capable of doing new and better things (although not all of them are so great), and 2020 is no exception. But as the number of IoT gadgets in the average person’s home grows, so too do the opportunities they provide hackers to collect data, find vulnerabilities, and generally cause mischief. 

    It’s hard to overstate how big IoT is going to become. At a 24.7% compound annual growth rate, the IoT market will likely be worth over 380 billion USD in 2020. The good news is that a bigger market does mean that improved device security will become an increasingly common concern among manufacturers — something that’s largely been neglected for now. We’re not there yet, unfortunately, and 2020 just might be that sweet spot where the market is huge, but not as innately secure as it will need to be in the future. 

    So it’s likely that hackers will be doubling down on IoT attacks in 2020. But that doesn’t mean you have to throw Alexa in the garbage. Even something as simple as updating your router’s default username and password will go a long way to keeping you safer. Looking for more ways to keep your IoT network safe? We’ve got you covered.

    2. AI-powered malware

    AVG, and many other top cybersecurity software companies, take great pride in our machine learning and AI-powered security that can intelligently identify and protect you from even the latest threats. But we don’t have a monopoly on that stuff, and in 2019 we saw a rise in what could be called our ‘evil twins’ — malware that had been given an extra boost with the same smart automation technology we use to keep you safe. In 2020, we have no reason to suspect they’ll be stopping. 

    Sounds spooky, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, this malware is a significant upgrade from earlier, non-smart malware that relied on sheer numbers and dumb luck to bypass your online security. But no, because of 2 key reasons:

    1) AVG and other cybersecurity producers are still ahead of the curve, thanks to the fact we have more manpower and resources than your average hacker group.

    2) Even the smartest, AI-powered malware needs to be effectively delivered to a system before it can take root, and as long as you practice healthy computing habits, it doesn’t matter how advanced the malware is — you won’t catch it. 

    But hey, speaking of malware delivery systems...

    3. Phishing attacks

    Phishing, the act of tricking people into downloading malicious software, works

    It works so well, in fact, that it’s become the #1 delivery method for malware in 2019 — and was responsible for 32% of data breaches and 78% of cyberespionage incidents in that same year. And it’s only going to get more sophisticated and prevalent in 2020. This is especially true in the United States, where a new presidential race provides hackers with ample opportunities to send out fake emails that will rile people up into clicking links, downloading attachments, and generally making themselves extremely easy targets. Heck, we may even see a phishing attack used to impact the results of the election, as was the case in 2016. 

    While it’s sad you can’t just relax while you check your emails anymore, the good news is that a phishing email can still be fairly easy to spot, if you take the time to pay attention. Any email that includes a strange attachment, urges you to click a link, asks for personal information, or generally demands quick and careless action should be treated extremely suspiciously. If you’re not sure, doing as little as Googling the subject line will often tell you if it’s legitimate or not.

    4. Ransomware

    In 2017 and 2018, ransomware — malware that locks up your files and demands payment to get them unlocked — was the biggest fad in the hacker world, as it was the easiest, most reliable way to make money (which, for many hackers, is the ultimate goal). At the tail end of 2018 and the start of 2019, however, the ransomware trend slowed slightly in favor of cryptomining — which forces devices to mine for cryptocurrency without their owner’s knowledge, sending all the money to the hackers. It was a ‘nicer’ agreement for all parties involved: cryptomining, while annoying and draining for the people affected, wasn’t nearly as dangerous as ransomware, and since it was easy to hide and unobtrusive, it could sometimes go for a long time before it was eventually caught and removed.

    But cryptocurrency is an unpredictable beast, and with the value of these digital coins dropping, it means a resurgence in ransomware. Uh oh. 

    Ransomware is like any other malware in that a strong antivirus should keep it from taking root, but if your device has a vulnerability (like how the famous Wannacry took advantage of the EternalBlue vulnerability) then it’s possible for ransomware to slip through the cracks and encrypt your data. That would either force you to reset your device, wait for a universal encryption key to be released, or pay the ransom (not recommended). The best ways to avoid this is to 

    1) Keep all your software up-to-date

    2) Improve your IoT security so those devices don’t inadvertently give hackers access to your network 

    Oh, and backing up your files ensures that if something ever does go wrong, you’ll be able to access them again. That’s a good tip for your online life in general — not just for ransomware.

    5. Mobile attacks

    5G is coming, and with 5G will come a wave of 5G compatible devices. And much like with IoT, a new wave of devices means a new wave of malware trying to take advantage of their lackluster security.

    Historically, the security space for mobile devices has been a bit of a strange beast. For a long time, most people didn’t even bother to get security software for their mobile device (a trend that’s thankfully changing), which made them tempting targets. But actually, infecting these vulnerable devices was challenging because both Google and Apple kept such a tight lock on their app stores, which made it extremely difficult to infiltrate user devices. Generally, however, Android devices are the only really vulnerable mobile platform, thanks to the fact that apps could be downloaded from a place other than the Google Play store. But even if you only ever used Google Play, occasionally hackers can still slip through the algorithm and post malicious apps there too.

    5G threatens to change all that. A stronger network and faster speeds promises to increase people’s use of and reliance on mobile platforms and apps. As more people download more apps, the more damaging any malware that manages to bypass store security becomes. And this could create a potentially catastrophic chain reaction as it spreads through all the interconnected devices that 5G technology enables. 

    This makes it enormously attractive to hackers, who are no doubt already concocting ways to infiltrate the 5G network when it’s young and possibly at its most vulnerable. 

    The best advice to give here would probably be to hold off a bit before you upgrade to 5G. As tempting as it is to keep up with the Joneses, if they’re the ones getting hacked on their brand-new 5G network and you’re the one who waited until all the wrinkles were ironed out before you made the switch, you walk away the winner. This, combined with making sure you keep your mobile safely secured with powerful security, should keep you out of harm's way during what could be a tumultuous period.

    There’s a lot to be excited about in 2020, and if you stay smart, vigilant, and thoughtful, there’s no reason to let hackers ruin the hype for you. 

    Happy new year!

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    Joseph Regan