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Experts predict 2017’s biggest cybersecurity threats

If 2016 was the year hacking went mainstream, 2017 will be the year hackers innovate, said Adam Meyer, chief security strategist at SurfWatch Labs. Meyer analyzes large and diverse piles of data to help companies identify emerging cyber-threat trends. "2017 will be the year of increasingly creative [hacks]," he said. In the past, cybersecurity was considered the realm of IT departments, Meyer explained, but no longer. As smart companies systematically integrate security into their systems, the culture hackers too will evolve.

"Cybercriminals follow the money trail," Meyer said, and smart companies should adopt proactive policies. Ransomware attacks grew quickly, he said, because the attacks are "cheap to operate, and many organizations are not yet applying the proper analysis and decision-making to appropriately defend against this threat."

SEE: How risk analytics can help your organization plug security holes (Tech Pro Research)

It's equally cheap to identify internal vulnerability to hacks and to apply preventative best practices, Meyer said. But for many companies it's not as easy to understand the cybersecurity threats most likely to impact business. To help, TechRepublic spoke with a number of prominent security experts about their predictions for near-future cybersecurity trends likely to impact enterprise and small business in 2017.

Cyber-offense and cyber-defense capacities will increase - Mark Testoni, CEO at SAP's national security arm, NS2

We will see an increased rate of sharing of cyber capabilities between the commercial and government spaces. Commercial threat intelligence capabilities will be adopted more broadly by organizations and corporations... High performance computing (HPC), in conjunction with adaptive machine learning (ML) capabilities, will be an essential part of network flow processing because forensic analysis can't stop an impending attack. HPC + adaptive ML capabilities will be required to implement real-time network event forecasting based on prior network behavior and current network operations... [Companies will] use HPC and adaptive ML to implement real-time behavior and pattern analysis to evaluate all network activity based on individual user roles and responsibilities to identify potential individuals within an organization that exhibit "out of the ordinary" tendencies with respect to their use of corporate data and application access.

Ransomware and extortion will increase - Stephen Gates, chief research intelligence analyst at NSFOCUS

The days of single-target ransomware will soon be a thing of the past. Next-generation ransomware paints a pretty dark picture as the self-propagating worms of the past, such as Conficker, Nimda, and Code Red, will return to prominence—but this time they will carry ransomware payloads capable of infecting hundreds of machines in an incredibly short timespan. We have already seen this start to come to fruition with the recent attack on the San Francisco Municipal Transport Agency, where over 2,000 systems were completely locked with ransomware and likely spread on its own as a self-propagating worm. As cybercriminals become more adept at carrying out these tactics, there is a good chance that these attacks will become more common.

As more devices become internet-enabled and accessible and the security measures in place continue to lag behind, the associated risks are on the rise. Aside from the obvious risks for attacks on consumer IoT devices, there is a growing threat against industrial and municipal IoT as well. As leading manufacturers and grid power producers transition to Industry 4.0, sufficient safeguards are lacking. Not only do these IoT devices run the risk of being used to attack others, but their vulnerabilities leave them open to being used against the industrial organizations operating critical infrastructure themselves. This can lead to theft of intellectual property, collecting competitive intelligence, and even the disruption or destruction of critical infrastructure. Not only is the potential scale of these attacks larger, most of these industrial firms do not have the skills in place to deal with web attacks in real-time, which can cause long-lasting, damaging results. This alone will become one of the greatest threats that countries and corporations need to brace themselves for in 2017 and beyond.

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