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Online extortion set to increase in 2016, says Trend Micro

2016 will see continued growth in cyber extortion, hacktivism and mobile malware, alongside a shift to an offensive cyber security posture for governments and corporations, say researchers

Online extortion is likely to increase in the coming year as cyber criminals devise new ways to personalise attacks, according to Trend Micro’s annual security predictions report.

Trend Micro’s researchers expect that as users become more aware of online threats, attackers will react by developing sophisticated, personalised schemes to target individuals and corporations alike.

Online extortion will be accelerated through the use of psychological analysis and social engineering of prospective victims, the report said.

The Fine Line: 2016 Security Predictions report also forecasts continued growth in hacktivism and mobile malware, alongside a shift to an offensive cyber security posture for governments and corporations.

Hacktivists will be driven to expose even more incriminating information, impacting targets and facilitating secondary infections, the report said.

Trend Micro’s researchers believe hacktivists will escalate attack methods to destroy targets systematically with high-profile data breaches.

The mobile malware count is expected to grow to 20 million, primarily impacting China, while targeting new mobile payment options worldwide.

As more consumer-grade smart devices are used in day-to-day activities, at least one device failure will be lethal in 2016, the report said.

“We expect 2016 to be a very significant year for both sides of the cyber crime equation,” said Raimund Genes, chief technology officer at Trend Micro.

“Governments and enterprises will begin to see the benefit of cyber security foresight, with changes in legislation and the increasing addition of cyber security officers in enterprises,” he said.

But at the same time, the report predicts that less than half of organisations will have cyber security experts on staff by the end of 2016.

According to the report, 2016 will also mark a significant turning point for malvertising. In the US alone, 48% of consumers use online ad blocking software, with a 41% increase in global use in 2015.

As a result, advertisers will seek to alter their approach to online ads, and cyber criminals will attempt to find other ways to obtain user information.

“Hackers consistently evolve to adapt to their surroundings – just as online ads are declining, we see ransomware is increasing,” said Tom Kellermann, chief cyber security officer at Trend Micro.

“Despite the growth in security investments and legislation, these changes will inevitably bring new, more sophisticated attack vectors,” he said.

The sophisticated threat landscape reinforces the need for regulatory requirements and cyber security officers, the report’s authors said.

However, they predict that legislation will expand to a global cyber security defence model, allowing for more successful arrests, prosecution and convictions.

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