How are cybercriminals targeting businesses right now? How can enterprises protect themselves from breaches and hacks? Is there life after a major breach or other debilitating cybersecurity incident? These are all questions businesses using connected devices and IoT (Internet of Things) technologies need to be asking themselves. A report from Accenture provides insight that can help cybersecurity professionals make the best decisions possible for protecting their devices, data, networks, and systems.

The newly released 2019 Cyber Threatscape Report from Accenture identifies top threats influencing the cyber landscape and predicts how the landscape will evolve during the course of the next year. For instance, the report outlines several key trends in 2019 that are affecting the space right now, including disinformation compromising geopolitics (Accenture defines disinformation as communication designed to influence perceptions), an increase in the resilience of criminal networks, hybrid motives behind ransomware attacks complicating response, and threats being pushed to the supply chain, among others.

In the coming year, Accenture calls out a handful of specific events set to take place on a global stage that will likely attract cyberthreat activity, like the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, elections, and NATO events. The report also points to social media as a “battleground for the hearts and minds of worldwide audiences,” because it can be used to disseminate disinformation and sway public opinion.

Emerging technologies like AI (artificial intelligence) may fuel the spread of disinformation. Consider, for instance, deepfakes, which use AI and authentic images or videos to create an altered human likeness in the form of an image or a video. The implications are troubling, because deepfakes can make people think someone said something he or she didn’t actually say, and seeing is often believing.

One recent and high profile example of a deepfake involves an eerie digitally altered video of Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, posted on Instagram. The fake Zuckerberg says, in part: “Imagine this for a second: One man, with total control of billions of people’s stolen data, all their secrets, their lives, their futures.” The deepfake is just one relatively mild example of how the technology can be used to manipulate consumers by putting words in someone’s mouth.

The WITNESS Media Lab, a project in conjunction with the Google News Initiative that’s dedicated to “unleashing the potential of eyewitness video” as a tool to report, monitor, and advocate for human rights, released a report focusing on the mal-uses of AI-generated deepfakes and other “synthetic media”. The organization suggests 12 steps to prepare for deepfakes, including things like identifying global threat models, promoting cross-disciplinary solution approaches that build on existing expertise, supporting research into how to communicate video manipulation and simulation to the public, and prioritizing shared detection systems.

As cybercrime campaigns and high-profile advanced persistent threat groups shift how they target victims, and as new types of security threats emerge, organizations must remain agile and vigilant. Being aware that cybersecurity is a never-ending process is a good first step; if the bad guys aren’t complacent, the good guys can’t be either.

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