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2024 Cybersecurity Forecasts and Recommendations

What are the big 2024 cybersecurity factors, and what can we do about them?

Our industry is in constant flux, and staying ahead of emerging threats is a continuous and labor-intensive challenge for security teams. The past year has been a harbinger for the multilayered cybersecurity issues we’ll face in 2024. The proliferation of IoT devices, vulnerabilities in third-party components, the refinement of phishing through AI, plus persistent zero-day API and web application weaknesses have all shaped my concerns at the end of 2023.

Here are my thoughts on a few of the more pressing 2024 cybersecurity threats, with some strategic defensive recommendations, in the hope of promoting security readiness for organizations in the year ahead.

An Explosion of Phishing Attacks

Phishing is going to remain a dominant vulnerability for cyber breaches. Attackers continuously innovate deceptive techniques to manipulate our colleagues into disclosing confidential information and clicking on bad links.

Rigorous employee education programs must be a priority to fortify the human defense line. Email filtering systems and stringent authentication processes, such as multi-factor authentication, will remain an essential tactical shield.

Web Application Defense in 2024 Cybersecurity

Web applications will continue to be a magnet for cyberattacks due to their access to data center and cloud environments where substantial, sensitive data repositories live.

Insight into the application stack and web application firewalls (WAFs) has to be non-negotiable. Conducting regular penetration tests, alongside comprehensive vulnerability assessments, will be critical for any applications with online exposure.

The Escalation of Ransomware Tactics in 2024

Ransomware is evolving, becoming more sophisticated and costly. It is more often targeting a range of assets that span legacy operating systems to IoT devices.

Maintaining up-to-date, offline backups and regular ransomware response exercises should be standard policy, and granular segmentation (microsegmentation) can be a crucial to halt the spread of ransomware within an organization’s network, in the cloud or in the data center.

Unpredictable Zero-Day Exploits

Zero-day exploits epitomize unpredictability, often catching organizations off-guard with their unanticipated vulnerabilities.

A positive security model where a baseline of approved activity can act as a zero-day buffer, standing guard as a constant, real-time sentry, can block unverified behaviors by default. Moreover, maintaining  a patching program is vital for resilience and swift repair against unforeseeable vulnerabilities.

2024 Risks in Software Supply Chains

The widespread reliance on third-party software components is a significant concern due to the elevated access often granted to these elements.

Microsegmentation should be employed to limit the reach of any breach that occurs via third-party software, effectively minimizing the attack’s spread and reducing the blast radius of any (statically inevitable) security incident.

Adapting to PCI DSS 4.0 for 2024 Cybersecurity Compliance

The transition to PCI DSS 4.0 will be a challenge for unprepared organizations, potentially leading to extensive and costly compliance assessments, with an imminent transition deadline in March.

Immediate prioritization of compliance strategies is going to be necessary, including the adoption of tools and practices that can demonstrate effective isolation of the Cardholder Data Environment (CDE) in compliance with the new PCI standards.

The Disparity in Attack Dynamics

The imbalance in attack dynamics heavily favors attackers, who can concentrate on a single point of entry, unlike defenders, who have to be ready to guard against a swarm of potential incursions.

Organizations must move to a proactive defense posture incorporating predictive threat hunting, ongoing system monitoring, laser-clear visibility, and solid incident response frameworks.

Rising Importance of Protecting Service Accounts

The importance of safeguarding service accounts has risen greatly. Embedded in every enterprise application, performing automated tasks with elevated permissions, service accounts might be the most valuable tool that any attacker can find.

For CISOs, identifying every service account in use and where it is used will be a top priority in 2024.  Without the visibility and controls capable of locking service accounts down, microsegmentation still has limitations. Network policies are a key place to start in controlling lateral movement, but if an attacker can dump local credentials and use them on a different server, you’re still susceptible to spreading attacks.

The Vulnerability of IoT Ecosystems

The exponential growth of IoT devices is a welcome one but presents bad actors with hundreds of new attack vectors.

Implementing robust authentication on IoT devices and consistently updating our firmware is critical. Additionally, segregating IoT devices from core networks is a strategic and positive move to mitigate risks.

Fragility of pre-2024 Legacy Systems

Legacy systems offer significant risks due to their outdated nature and lack of ongoing support.

Organizations must create a roadmap for their systematic upgrades/updates. Where upgrades aren’t feasible, implementing additional protective measures (such as ringfencing) to segregate these systems from broader network exposure will be a winning strategy.

A Safe 2024 Cybersecurity Posture

As I look at the security landscape heading into 2024, I hope these predictions and mitigation strategies can help to guide organizations in recalibrating their cybersecurity defenses and promoting cyber-resilience. The emphasis on proactive, intelligent security measures tailored to each unique threat can fortify enterprises and offer a holistic stack against tomorrow’s sophisticated and evolving dangers. This is going to be the deciding factor in success for the year to come.

Let’s be careful out there, and here’s wishing everyone a safe and prosperous 2024 cybersecurity posture in the year to come.

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