2023, the year of increased hacktivism and geopolitical attacks
There is no more time for African organisations to place cyber defence on the list of their highest business priorities – especially considering that cybersecurity experts predict heightened hacktivism and geopolitical attacks in 2023.
Global cybersecurity company and extended detection and response (XDR) specialist Trellix provides insight in its just-released Advanced Research Centre’s 2023 Threat Predictions report.
In its introduction of the report, the company warned as many organisations grow in maturity in terms of their business digitalisation – including those who had not previously lead the charge are now rapidly making the transition – they must prepare for spikes in geopolitically motivated attacks (especially across Asia and Europe), hacktivism fuelled by tensions from opposing political parties, and vulnerabilities in core software supply chains.
“Analysing current trends is necessary but being predictive in cybersecurity is vital. While organisations focus on near-term threats, we advise all to look beyond the horizon to ensure a proactive posture,” said John Fokker, Head of Threat Intelligence, Trellix. “Global political events and the adoption of new technology will breed novel threats from more innovative threat actors.”
Statistics show that Africa is not immune from cyber threats and is as susceptible to attacks as its international counterparts. Local organisations’ state of readiness to deal with threats is a constant narrative within the broader cybersecurity threat landscape discussion.
At the Trellix Xpand Live 2022 conference hosted in Las Vegas in September, experts presented research which showed that less than 40% of South African SecOps professionals are confident in their ability to adapt to new online threats, with 34% only somewhat confident. While 18% are not confident in their ability to deal with continuously evolving threats, over 10% are undecided.
The 2023 Threat Predictions report details several emerging trends that Trellix believes will characterise the global cybersecurity threat landscape next year.
It says the rise of geopolitically motivated cyberattacks and misinformation campaigns may continue to shape the cyberthreat landscape through 2023.
In the report, Anne An writes: “Geopolitics open new avenues for cyberthreat actors to attack businesses and individuals in their targeted countries and supporters. Throughout 2022, geopolitical tensions have been exacerbated by hacktivists and other cyberthreat actors. Cyberattacks have accompanied and complemented kinetic military action in these instances to undermine resistance and defense capabilities against invaders, influence foreign policies, and support the aggressor’s strategic goals. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, political tensions in the Taiwan Strait, and North Korea’s missile tests over Japan and South Korea have all been aggravated by accompanying cyberthreat activities.”
Manoj Reddy added: “For many years the global headlines have been dominated by state sponsored and financially motivated cyber threats. Hacktivism – politically or socially motivated hacking by activists – has remained in the background in recent years. Given current global tensions, we are already seeing re-emergence of hacktivism and expect this to play a larger part in 2023. As groups of loosely organised individuals fuelled by propaganda align for a common cause, they may continue to ramp up their use of cyber tools to voice their anger and cause disruption.”
Another concern for organisations, raised in the report, is that experts predict an increased activity from teens and young adults – everything from large-scale attacks on enterprises and governments to low level crime.
Africa has to be prepared and organisations must tap into threat intelligence that is now a focus for cybersecurity firms like Trellix.
Carlo Bolzonello, country lead for Trellix in South Africa, said that the company uses a lot of data from the Africa space in its threat analysis and in its technology. “From a threat perspective and from a technology perspective, Africa is treated the same as the US and everywhere else, because we have to – the threat is exactly the same globally. So the threat is the same and so we want to defend and protect customers globally.”
Bryan Palma, Trellix CEO, said that Africa is a big and important growth market. “As the economy continues to mature, there will be a lot more opportunities for cybersecurity companies to help African companies protect their infrastructure, their data… we do relatively well in South Africa. If you look at our solution and what we’re doing, our portfolio will help medium-sized businesses in Africa get multiple capabilities from a suite of products. We are well-positioned.”
In the 2023 Threat Predictions report, John Borrero Rodriguez notes: “In 2023, no longer will simple security planning be enough to deter or prevent attackers. System defenders worldwide may have to implement a more proactive defensive approach led by the stringent industry standards followed by government, military, and multi-governance environments. It may very well be a significant rise in advanced cyberactors causing disruptions to critical infrastructure in vulnerable targets. No doubt the discovery of novel techniques may cause other bad actors to adopt them, changing their campaigns to further threaten users, industries, and critical assets connected to the internet.”