Stealth and secrecy used to be the hallmarks of cyber espionage and warfare, with spies and hackers sneaking in and out of target networks without leaving a trace or evidence that could be linked back to them.
But increasingly, cyber attacks are now carried out in full public view, and many attackers don’t appear to worry so much about keeping under the radar. Some even seem to go out of their way to make sure they are spotted.
One example of the way cyber attacks have gone public: the WannaCry ransomware caused chaos and made headlines around the world, with many businesses locked out of their PCs by hackers who demanded a bitcoin ransom in exchange for restoring access to data.
Show of strength
Rather than stealing data in secret, cyber attacks have now become a way for some states to show their technical prowess, especially if they are trying to compete with economically or militarily more powerful states.
This use of cyber warfare by some states to level the playing field with bigger rivals is also likely to be a trend in future.
Critical infrastructure like power, water, healthcare and more are fundamental to the functioning of modern societies, and attackers know this, so they make tempting targets for hacking.
Still not prepared for attacks
The world has repeatedly been warned about the threats posed by powerful hacking operations and despite real-world examples, such as WannaCry, the risks are still ignored by most people outside of the cyber security sector. That means the risk of another significantly destructive incident is still far too high.
In an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to think about such a threat, but as nation-state hacking activity gets increasingly brazen and increasingly focused on causing damage and disruption over stealth, it might be that 2019 could be the year when the world has to face another major destructive cyber attack, and we’re still not ready.