Cyberthreat trends: 15 cybersecurity threats for 2020


Cybercrimes cost the world $6 trillion a year by 2021, according to cybersecurity ventures. Large data breaches and cyberthreats from foreign locales such as China and Russia threaten elections. Experts worry that 5G technology will create additional cybersecurity challenges for businesses.

How serious of a problem is cybercrime? A study by Cybersecurity Ventures predicts these crimes will cost the world $6 trillion a year by 2021.

This is a big number, but it’s no surprise to anyone who has followed the exploits of hackers and online scammers. Cybercrimes have become big news, with large data and security breaches at companies generating headlines, and cyberthreats from foreign locales such as China and Russia threatening U.S. businesses and elections.

Here’s a short glossary of terms and trends that could pose cybersecurity threats in 2020, and how they might impact businesses, governments, and individuals in the coming year and beyond.

15 cybersecurity threats for 2020

This is a sampling of emerging and existing cybersecurity threats you’ll likely hear more about this year.

1. Deepfakes

Deepfakes is a combination of the words "deep learning" and "fake." Deepfakes happen when artificial intelligence technology creates fake images and sounds that appear real.

A deepfake might create a video in which a politician's words are manipulated, making it appear that political leader said something they never did.

Other deepfakes superimpose the face of popular actors or other celebrities onto other people's bodies.

2. Deepfake voice technology

This technology allows people to spoof the voices of other people — often politicians, celebrities or CEOs — using artificial intelligence.

3. Synthetic identities

Synthetic identities are a form of identity fraud in which scammers use a mix of real and fabricated credentials to create the illusion of a real person.

For instance, a criminal might create a synthetic identity that includes a legitimate physical address. The Social Security number and birthdate associated with that address, though, might not be legitimate.

4. AI-powered cyberattacks

Using artificial intelligence, hackers are able to create programs that mimic known human behaviors. These hackers can then use these programs to trick people into giving up their personal or financial information.

5. Hackers attacking AI while it’s still learning

Artificial Intelligence evolves. It’s most vulnerable to cyberattacks, though, when it’s learning a new model or system.

In these attacks, known as poisoning attacks, cybercriminals can inject bad data into an AI program. This bad data can then cause the AI system to learn something it’s not supposed to.

An example? Some cybercriminals have used poisoning attacks on AI systems to get around spam detectors.

6. Disinformation in social media

You probably have heard the term “fake news.” This is also known as disinformation, the deliberate spreading of news stories and information that is inaccurate and designed to persuade people — often voters — to take certain actions or hold specific beliefs.

Social disinformation is often spread through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. “Fake news” became a hot topic during and after the 2016 presidential election.

7. New cybersecurity challenges that 5G creates

Tech experts worry that 5G will create additional cybersecurity challenges for businesses and governments.

A 2019 study by Information Risk Management, titled Risky Business, said that survey respondents worried that 5G technology will result in a greater risk of cyberattacks on Internet of Things (IoT) networks.

They also cited a lack of security in 5G hardware and firmware as a worry.

8. Advances in quantum computers pose a threat to cryptographic systems

The idea of quantum computing is still new, but at its most basic, this is a type of computing that can use certain elements of quantum mechanics.

What's important for cybersecurity is that these computers are fast and powerful. The threat is that quantum computers can decipher cryptographic codes that would take traditional computers far longer to crack — if they ever could.

9. Vehicle cyberattacks

As more cars and trucks are connected to the Internet, the threat of vehicle-based cyberattacks rises.

The worry is that cybercriminals will be able to access vehicles to steal personal data, track the location or driving history of these vehicles, or even disable or take over safety functions.

10. Cloud jacking

Cloud jacking is a form of cyberattack in which hackers infiltrate the programs and systems of businesses, stored in the cloud, and use these resources to mine for cryptocurrency.

11. Cyberattacks against less-developed nations

The residents of developing nations might be more vulnerable to cyberattacks.

People in these countries often conduct financial transactions over unsecured mobile phone lines, making them more vulnerable to attacks.

12. Election security

The U.S. government fears that hackers from other countries might target the voter-registration databases for state and local governments, with the intent to either destroy or disrupt this information. This could prevent people from being able to vote.

The U.S. government, then, has boosted efforts to protect this election information from criminals.

13. Ransomware attacks on the public sector

In a ransomware attack, hackers access the computer systems of an end user, usually freezing them. These attackers will only unlock the infected systems if the victim pays a ransom.

Hackers today often target the computer systems of government bodies, including municipalities, public utilities, and fire and police departments, hijacking their computer systems until these government agencies pay a ransom.

14. Data privacy

Companies, medical providers and government agencies store a large amount of important data, everything from the Social Security numbers of patients to the bank account numbers of customers.

Data privacy refers to a branch of security focused on how to protect this information and keep it away from hackers and cybercriminals.

15. Breaches in hospitals and medical networks

Hospitals and other medical providers are prime targets for cybercriminals. That’s because these medial providers have access to the personal and financial information of so many patients.

Data breaches can expose this information, which hackers can then sell on the dark web.

Dan Rafter
  • Dan Rafter
  • Freelance writer
Dan Rafter is a freelance writer who covers tech, finance, and real estate. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Fox Business.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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