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How IoT, 5G, RPA and AI are opening doors to cybersecurity threats

“You can’t say civilization don’t advance… in every war they kill you in a new way.” – Will Rogers

Software is eating the world. Cloud, RPA and AI are becoming increasingly common and a necessary part of every business that wishes to thrive or survive in the age of digital transformation, whether for lowering operational costs or to remain in the competition. But as we increasingly digitalize our work, we’re opening new doors for cybersecurity threats. Here, we dive into the technological advancements in the past year to learn how we can use those progresses without getting burnt.

IoT

From office devices to home appliances, our “anytime, anywhere” needs require every peripheral to connect to the internet and our smartphones. But simultaneously, the new IT landscape has created a massive attack vector. SonicWall’s Annual Threat Report discovered a 217% increase in IoT attacks, while their Q3 Threat Data Report discovered 25 million attacks in the third quarter alone, a 33% increase that shows the continued relevance of IoT attacks in 2020.

IoT devices collect our private data for seemingly legitimate purposes, but when a hacker gains access to those devices, they offer the perfect means for spying and tracking. The FBI recently warned against one such example of the cybersecurity threat concerning smart TVs, which are equipped with internet streaming and facial recognition capabilities.

As governments increasingly use cyberattacks as part of their aggressive policies, the problem only gets worse. IoT devices were usually exploited for creating botnet armies to launch distributed denial-of-service attacks, but in April 2019, Microsoft announced that Russian state-sponsored hackers used IoT devices to breach corporate networks. The attackers initially broke into a voice over IP phone, an office printer and a video decoder and then used that foothold to scan for other vulnerabilities within their target’s internal networks.

Some of the hacks mentioned above were facilitated because the devices were deployed with default manufacturer passwords, or because the latest security update was not installed. But with the IoT rush, new cybersecurity threats and attack vectors emerge. “When new IoT devices are created, risk reduction is frequently an afterthought. It is not always a top priority for device makers to create security measures since no initial incentive is seen due to a lack of profit,” warned Hagay Katz, vice president of cybersecurity at Allot, a global provider of innovative network intelligence and security solutions. “Most devices suffer from built-in vulnerabilities and are not designed to run any third-party endpoint security software. For many consumers, cybersecurity has been synonymous with antivirus. But those days are long gone,” he said.

To fight against the new cybersecurity threats, Katz recommended turning to a communications service providers (CSP). “Through machine learning techniques and visibility provided by the CSP, all the devices are identified. A default security policy is then applied for each device and the network is segregated to block lateral malware propagation. By simply adding a software agent on the subscriber’s existing consumer premise equipment, CSPs can easily roll out a network or router-based solution that protects all the consumer’s IoT devices.”

We also need to consider whether we really need an IoT version of everything. In the words of Ryan Trost, co-founder and CTO of ThreatQuotient who has over 15 years of security experience focusing on intrusion detection and cyber intelligence: “I can appreciate the benefits of every single student having a tablet (or equivalent) for schooling. However, I struggle to find the legitimacy of why my refrigerator needs an Internet connection, or for that matter, a video conferencing feature.”

5G

While the next generation network takes AI, VR and IoT to new levels, it’s also creating new problems. “5G utilizes millimeter waves, which have a much shorter range than the conventional lower-frequency radio waves. This is where the source of the greatest [cybersecurity] threat in 5G infrastructure originates from,” warned Abdul Rehman, a cybersecurity editor at VPNRanks. “An attacker can steal your data by setting up a fake cell tower near your home and learn a great deal about the device you are using including location, phone model, operating system, etc. These can even be used to listen in on your phone calls.” To mitigate the risk, Rehman suggests relying on strong encryption.

AI

We’ve previously talked about how AI is vulnerable to data poisoning attacks. As the technology advances, new forms of cybersecurity threats emerge. Voice deepfakes are one of such threats, where hackers impersonate C-level executives, politicians or other high-profile individuals. “Employees are tricked into sending money to scammers or revealing sensitive information after getting voice messages and calls that sound like they are from the CFO or other executives,” said Curtis Simpson, CISO at IoT security company Armis. “We’ve already seen one fraudulent bank transfer convert to $243,000 for criminals. Given how hard it is to identify these deepfakes compared to standard phishing attacks, I expect these operations will become the norm in the new year.”

It only takes one wrong click for a hacker to implant malware or open a backdoor. Unfortunately, that could be the undoing of all other security measures put in place to protect the network. “No one is off limits when it comes to cybersecurity threats,” warned PJ Kirner, CTO and founder of Illumio, which develops adaptive micro-segmentation technologies to prevent the spread of breaches. Children could end up installing malware on their parents’ phones. According to Kirner, “our sons and daughters will quickly become a new threat vector to enterprise security.”

Robotic process automation

A Gartner report showed the annual growth of RPA software and projected that revenue will grow to $1.3 billion by 2019. “In 2020, [RPA] will continue its disruptive rise and become even more ingrained in our everyday lives,” predicted Darrell Long, vice president of product management at One Identity, an identity and access management provider. “However, with the rapid adoption of RPA, security has become an afterthought, leaving major vulnerabilities.” RPA technologies hold privileged data and that makes them lucrative targets for cybercriminals. CIOs must pay close attention to the security of the RPA tools they use and the data they expose to ensure their business is not infiltrated by malicious actors.

Storage attacks

Cybercrimes are not only rising — they are also evolving. Attackers have realized that data in storage systems are key to an organization’s operations. “Hackers are now targeting network attached storage (NAS) devices, according to the data revealed in a new Kaspersky report. This new type of attack presents a significant problem to businesses using only NAS devices to store their backups,” said Doug Hazelman, a software industry veteran with over 20 years of experience.

According to Kaspersky, there was little evidence of NAS attacks in 2018, but as hackers realized the benefits, they caught users off guard since NAS devices typically don’t run antivirus or anti-malware products. Hackers exploited this shortcoming to put 19,000 QNAP NAS devices at risk.

Organizations should keep their systems updated with the latest security patches and ensure only necessary devices are reachable from public networks. Per Hazelman’s recommendation, “to prevent cybercriminals from infecting backups with malicious software, CIOs should ensure company backups are being stored on two different media types, one of which being cloud storage, which has several benefits, including increased security.”

Reaching for the clouds

While new technologies promise convenience and increased returns, CIOs must make sure the security risks do not outweigh the gains.

Contrary to the other technologies on this list, ransomware has largely left the cloud untouched. However, as companies continue to transition their servers and data to the cloud for more cost-efficient solutions, criminals will shift their focus. The current attacks have largely been due to cloud misconfigurations or stolen credentials, but since the cloud has become a one-stop shop for all data, it’s becoming the new battleground.

What we need to do about cybersecurity threats

By now, we’ve seen how devastating cyberattacks can be, and that the risks are steadily increasing. Security must be a priority and not an afterthought. While new technologies promise convenience and increased returns, CIOs must make sure the security risks do not outweigh the gains.

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5G vs. Wi-Fi: Verizon says cellular will win

Verizon’s long-term strategy is to make mobile 5G a Wi-Fi killer. While analysts don’t see that happening this decade, it is technically possible for the next-generation wireless technology to drive Wi-Fi into obsolescence.

Ronan Dunne, CEO of Verizon Consumer Group, recently entered the ongoing 5G vs. Wi-Fi tech debate when he predicted the latter’s demise. Dunne said his company’s upcoming 5G service would eventually make high-speed internet connectivity ubiquitous for its customers.

“In the world of 5G millimeter wave deployment, we don’t see the need for Wi-Fi in the future,” Dunne told attendees at a Citigroup global technology conference in Las Vegas.

Today, the millimeter wave (MM wave) spectrum used to transmit 5G signals is often blocked by physical objects like buildings and trees, making service unreliable. Verizon believes its engineers can circumvent those limitations within 5 to 7 years, bringing 5G wireless broadband to its 150 million customers.

Most analysts agree that Wi-Fi will remain the preferred technology for indoor wireless networking through the current decade. Beyond that, it’s technically possible for 5G services to start eroding Wi-Fi’s market dominance, particularly as the number of 5G mobile and IoT devices rises over the next several years.

“If the CEO of a major cellular carrier says something, I will take that seriously,” said Craig Mathias, principal analyst at Farpoint Group. “He could be dead wrong over the long run, but, technically, it could work.”

As an alternative to Wi-Fi, Verizon could offer small mobile base stations, such as specially designed picocells and femtocells, to carry 5G signals from the office and home to the carrier’s small cell base stations placed on buildings, lampposts or poles. The small cells would send traffic to the carriers’ core network.

Early uses for 5G

Initially, 5G could become a better option for specific uses. Examples include sports stadiums that have an atypically high number of mobile devices accessing the internet at the same time. That type of situation requires a massive expenditure in Wi-Fi gear and software that could prove more expensive than 5G technology, said Brandon Butler, an analyst at IDC.

Another better-than-Wi-Fi use for 5G would be in a manufacturing facility. Those locations often have machinery that needs an ultra-low latency connection in an area where a radio signal is up against considerable interference, Butler said.

Nevertheless, Butler stops short of predicting a 5G-only world, advising enterprises to plan for a hybrid world instead. They should look to Wi-Fi and 5G as the best indoor and outdoor technology, respectively.

“The real takeaway point here is that enterprises should plan for a hybrid world into the future,” Butler said.

Ultimately, how far 5G goes in replacing Wi-Fi will depend on whether the expense of switching is justified by reducing overall costs and receiving unique services. To displace Wi-Fi, 5G will have to do much more than match its speed.

“It’ll come down to cost and economics, and the cost and economics do not work when the performance is similar,” said Rajesh Ghai, an analyst at IDC.

Today, Wi-Fi provides a relatively easy upgrade path. That’s because, collectively, businesses have already spent billions of dollars over the years on Wi-Fi access points, routers, security and management tools. They have also hired the IT staff to operate the system.

Verizon 5G Home

While stressing the importance of mobile 5G vs. Wi-Fi, Dunne lowered expectations for the fixed wireless 5G service for the home that the carrier launched in 2018. Verizon expected it’s 5G Home service to eventually compete with the TV and internet services provided by cable companies.

Today, 5G Home, which is available in parts of five metropolitan markets, has taken a backseat to Verizon’s mobile 5G buildout. “It’s very much a mobility strategy with a secondary product of home,” Dunne said.

Ghai of IDC was not surprised that Verizon would lower expectations for 5G Home. Delivering the service nationwide would have required spending vast amounts of money to blanket neighborhoods with small cells.

Verizon likely didn’t see enough interest for 5G Home among consumers to justify the cost, Ghai said. “It probably hasn’t lived up to the promise.”

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Decision-makers may prefer Wi-Fi over 5G in retail networks

While fifth-generation wireless has taken the technology world by storm, many retailers don’t see a need to heed the hype.

Several use cases may glean immediate 5G benefits, yet 5G in retail is superfluous for now. Although 5G can support retail networks that require advanced capabilities, such as virtual reality, the retail world won’t depend on 5G because other wireless technologies are still efficient, according to a recent Forrester Research report. The report “The CIO’s Guide To 5G In The Retail Sector” explored particular retail use cases, and report author and principal analyst Dan Bieler discussed key differences between retail and other 5G use cases.

“Retailers are quite sophisticated in their existing technology understanding,” Bieler said. “They have achieved some great solutions with existing technologies, and they will not risk upsetting everything in the short term where they don’t see a clear [ROI] for making additional network infrastructure investments in 5G.”

Dan BielerDan Bieler

Retailers are interested in 5G for their networks, Bieler said, yet few have implemented or deployed 5G so far. Some retailers may seek out 5G as a replacement for existing MPLS connectivity, but this choice depends on pricing models and business requirements. Overall, IT decision-makers may prefer Wi-Fi over 5G in retail networks because not all retailers require the advanced capabilities 5G networks offer, he added.

5G in retail lacks transformative qualities largely because cellular technologies weren’t developed for indoor network coverage, and physical objects indoors can impede 5G’s millimeter wave frequencies and its line-of-sight travel capabilities.

The advent of Wi-Fi 6, or 802.11ax, may interest retailers more than 5G, as Wi-Fi historically supports more indoor use cases and networks than cellular technologies. Both Wi-Fi 6 and 5G offer similar capabilities, which makes them competitors in some use cases and complementary in others. For exclusively indoor retail environments, IT decision-makers may not see a need for 5G networks, Bieler said.

“[Retailers] can do a lot with the technologies that we have today,” he said. “5G will be a continuum rather than a completely revolutionary new technology for them.”

5G benefits
Aside from 5G in retail, the new generation of cellular technology has several benefits for all types of organizations.

Another issue retailers could face regarding 5G is customer apprehension. Despite 5G’s various new capabilities, customers don’t necessarily care about technological innovations and won’t alter their shopping habits because of 5G. However, customers in younger age groups may be more willing to adapt to the capabilities 5G enables, so organizations should focus more on how to win over older age groups, the report said.

Benefits of 5G in retail use cases, networks

Despite the efficiency of other wireless technologies, the report noted three main areas where 5G in retail can benefit business operations, including the following:

  1. Back-end operations, where organizations can handle work the customers don’t see, such as tracking and monitoring inventory within warehouses.
  2. Front-end operations, which are customer-facing operations and deal with tracking and monitoring products and people within stores.
  3. Finance operations, where the store can remotely track and monitor a customer’s product or service usage and charge them accordingly.

As 5G rolls out throughout the 2020s, more features and potential benefits for organizations will arise, such as network slicing and mobile edge computing. These capabilities can help organizations create experiences tailored specifically to individual customers.

“5G allows the retailer to track many more items and many more sensors in a store than previous cellular technologies, so they can have a much more granular picture of what retail customers are looking at, where they are going and what they are doing with products in the store,” Bieler said.

Other benefits the report cited include cost-efficient store connectivity, enhanced customer insights and improved transparency within supply chains. Organizations won’t glean these benefits for several years, Bieler said, as carriers will deploy new 5G features in stages.

However, decision-makers can prepare to deploy 5G in retail use cases by focusing closely on network design and determining whether 5G is the right choice for their operations. To evaluate this, organizations can assess their indoor connectivity environments and gauge how a 5G deployment could affect the business sectors in which the store or organization requires 5G access.

Overall, 5G has various benefits for retail use cases, the report said, but these benefits are not universal. Businesses need to look closely at their network infrastructures and business requirements to evaluate 5G’s potential effect on their operations. Regardless, Bieler said he was sure deployments of 5G in retail will eventually become common.

“[Retailers] will still adopt it over time because 5G will provide super-fast broadband connectivity,” Bieler said. “It opens up your business model opportunities in an easier way. So, over time, retailers will definitely embrace it, but not tomorrow.”

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For Sale – LG 34WK95U 34″ 5120X2160 HDR600 Monitor – nearly new & Asus PG279Q

Bought this a while ago for work and photo editing, but don’t need it.

Hasn’t been used much at all.

All in perfect condition, with original box.

Collection preferred, but could be shipped.

£780

WD HDDs now sold

Asus PG279Q

Well used, good condition (should have wiped before picture, but it will come clean), no box, collection only.

£400

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For Trade – Intel i3 8350K LGA1151

Looking to trade with another lga1151 as upgraded CPU in gaming pc and don’t need an unlocked cou for the htpc.

Would also consider trade with AM4 bundle.

Location
Bristol
Price and currency
100
Delivery cost included
Delivery is NOT included
Prefer goods collected?
I have no preference
Advertised elsewhere?
Advertised elsewhere
Payment method
BT

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For Sale – LG 34WK95U 34″ 5120X2160 HDR600 Monitor – nearly new & Asus PG279Q

Bought this a while ago for work and photo editing, but don’t need it.

Hasn’t been used much at all.

All in perfect condition, with original box.

Collection preferred, but could be shipped.

£780

WD HDDs now sold

Asus PG279Q

Well used, good condition (should have wiped before picture, but it will come clean), no box, collection only.

£400

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For Sale – AOC AGON AG251FZ 240Hz 24.5″ LED FHD (1920×1080) Freesync 1ms Gaming monitor

Don’t have time for competitive gaming anymore. Purchased brand new from Amazon 5 months ago, still have original packaging and power adaptor. The DisplayPort cable which came with it was faulty so this includes the one I bought.

Club3D CAC-2067 DisplayPort to DisplayPort 1.4/HBR3 Cable DP 1.4 8K 60Hz 1m/3.28ft, Black

I’ll be moving from Durham to Staffordshire soon so collection is available from Durham up to the 13th of December, after that date from Staffordshire.

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For Sale – AOC AGON AG251FZ 240Hz 24.5″ LED FHD (1920×1080) Freesync 1ms Gaming monitor

Don’t have time for competitive gaming anymore. Purchased brand new from Amazon 5 months ago, still have original packaging and power adaptor. The DisplayPort cable which came with it was faulty so this includes the one I bought.

Club3D CAC-2067 DisplayPort to DisplayPort 1.4/HBR3 Cable DP 1.4 8K 60Hz 1m/3.28ft, Black

I’ll be moving from Durham to Staffordshire soon so collection is available from Durham up to the 13th of December, after that date from Staffordshire.

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For Sale – LG 34WK95U 34″ 5120X2160 HDR600 Monitor – nearly new & 5x brand new WD DC 12TB drives

Bought this a while ago for work and photo editing, but don’t need it.

Hasn’t been used much at all.

All in perfect condition, with original box.

Collection preferred, but could be shipped.

£800

Was building a NAS for my friend, but he’s changed his mind & these are no longer needed.

Still sealed in original packaging.

£250 each including delivery, I’ll offer a discount for multiple drives.

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