Cybersecurity threats at the edge represent new frontier for hackers in 2021


Threat actors have been effective at weaponizing email through phishing attacks and social media via disinformation and divisive posts. Now they are about to weaponize the edge as well.

A recent report from FortiGuard Labs, the threat intelligence and research organization of Fortinet Inc., predicts that weaponizing of connected devices at the intelligent edge could have a major impact on the speed and scale of cyberattacks in the future.

“This is the new emerging threat, more processing power, more access and privilege, smarter decisions that are being made on those devices,” said Derek Manky (pictured), chief of security insights and global threat alliances at Fortinet’s FortiGuard Labs. “Those devices are going to be targets for cybercriminals, and that’s something we’re going to see next year. Targeting the edge is going to be a big thing.”

Manky spoke with Lisa Martin, host of SiliconANGLE Media’s livestreaming video studio theCUBE. They discussed the range of threats posed by IoT device vulnerabilities and new developments in swarm technologies that could be exploited by hackers. (* Disclosure below.)

Emerging swarm attacks

The attack surface posed by edge devices includes virtual assistants in the home, but it extends beyond that.

“These edge devices are also being put into military and defense, critical infrastructure, field units for oil, gas and electricity,” Manky said. “IoT devices are the main culprit right now, and they can continue to be for a while.”

One of the emerging threats identified by FortiGuard Labs involves edge-enabled swarm attacks. The deployment of 5G wireless technology with its enhanced processing power will allow hackers to share intelligence in real time and fine-tune attacks in process.

An early sign of this threat can be found in a new botnet — HEH — which was discovered recently by the security division of Chinese tech firm Qihoo 360. HEH can wipe all data from infected routers, servers and IoT devices.

“The main characteristic of it is that it’s able to have communication,” Manky noted. “Devices can pass files between each other, talk to each other. They don’t have machine learning models yet, so…

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