The past year has been extremely eventful in terms of the digital threats faced by financial institutions: cybercrime groups have used new infiltration techniques, and the geography of attacks has become more extensive. According to the KSN statistics by Kaspersky Lab, Africa, Middle East and Turkey (META) region witnessed 17% increase in banking malware attack to reach almost half a million attacks in 2018. Cryptocurrencies have also become an established part of many people’s lives, and a more attractive target for cybercriminals across the world, which resulted in a rapid increase in malicious mining of cryptocurrencies.
Kaspersky Lab recorded a 4-fold increase in cryptomining attacks in the META region from 3.5 million in 2017 to 13 million in 2018.
“The META region is becoming more appealing to cybercriminals, with financial and malicious cyrpotomining attacks taking center stage. We discovered six new ATM malware families in 2018. On the other hand, illegal mining of cryptocurrencies has increased dramatically to overtake the main threat of the last few years: ransomware. We believe the reason behind this is that mining is silent and cause less impact that ransomware, making it less noticeable,” said Fabio Assolini, Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab.
Cybercriminals are not showing any signs of stopping and attacks will continue to evolve. Below are predictions by Kaspersky Lab experts on how these trends could affect our lives in the coming year.
- 2019 could see the first attacks through the theft and use of biometric data
Biometric systems for user identification and authentication are being gradually implemented by various financial institutions (report). Several major leaks of biometric data have already occurred. These two facts lay the foundation for the first POC (proof-of-concept) attacks on financial services using leaked biometric data.
- The emergence of new, local groups attacking financial institutions in the Indo-Pakistan region, South-East Asia and Central Europe
The activity of cybercriminals in these regions is constantly growing: the immaturity of protective solutions in the financial sector and the rapid spread of various electronic means of payment among the population and companies in these regions are contributing to this. Now, all the prerequisites exist for the emergence of a new center for financial threats in Asia, in addition to the three that exist already in Latin America, the Korean peninsula and the former-USSR.
- Attacks on mobile banking for business users
Mobile applications for business are gaining popularity, which is likely to lead to the first attacks on their users. There are enough tools for this, and the possible losses that businesses incur would be much higher than the losses incurred when individuals are attacked.
- Excessive expectations about the use of blockchain beyond the cryptocurrency sphere will disappear
In the end, this trend will be driven by people rather than the technology’s capability, as organisations and industries come to the conclusion that blockchain has a rather narrow scope of application, and most attempts to use in different ways are not justified. The reliable application of blockchain beyond cryptocurrency has been explored and experimented with for years, but there is little evidence of achievement. 2019 will be the year people stop trying.
- Cryptocurrencies as a means of payment will decline further
In 2017 a number of suppliers of goods and services announced that they would accept cryptocurrencies as a form of payment (report). However, in the face of huge commissions (an acute problem in December 2017), slow transfers, a large price for integration, and, most importantly, a small number of customers, its use as a method of payment declined steadily. In the end, the use of cryptocurrencies by a legitimate business simply does not make much sense.
- There will be no return to 2017’s sky-high exchange rates
Until January 2018, there were immense highs and lows in the price of Bitcoin. These is not expected to return as the value of cryptocurrencies levels out to reflect their popularity. There is a finite audience for whom cryptocurrencies are of interest, and once that limit is reached, the price will not rise further.