With the beginning of a new decade fast approaching, the year’s final month was marked several high-profile happenings in the world of technology. Along with resignations, “deepfakes” legislation and more cyberattacks, December’s news cycle saw industry experts eager to voice their 2020 predictions – and beyond.
Furthermore, the holiday season brought with it yet another record-breaking year of Cyber Monday online shopping sales totaling at $9.4 billion, according to an Adobe shopping trends report that analyzed visits to over 4,500 retail sites. According to TechCrunch, some of 2019’s online holiday shopping growth can be attributed to smartphone purchases; sales for the devices grew 46% over 2018 and comprised nearly one-third of the Cyber Monday total, or $3 billion. Coincidentally, approximately 35% of all online purchases were made using smartphones – totaling at $44.4 billion, Adobe reported.
Putting the holiday season aside, here are some of the most high-impact stories from December to delve into and consider further as the cyber world takes its first steps into the next decade:
Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin step down
December started with major news in the tech industry when Google co-founders Alphabet CEO Larry Page and President Sergey Brin stepped down from their roles, according to CNBC. Page was replaced by Google CEO Sundar Pichai and the position that Brin vacated was eliminated, the outlet reported.
According to Business Insider, experts believe that the decision will not bring about any (immediate) major changes to Alphabet or Google’s daily operations, although the change comes amid the “rockiest point” in the company’s history. The outlet reported that Brin and Page were criticized by former and current employees who had concerns that they believe should have been handled by the pair before they left.
“We are deeply committed to Google and Alphabet for the long term, and will remain actively involved as Board members, shareholders and co-founders. In addition, we plan to continue talking with Sundar regularly, especially on topics we’re passionate about!” a letter from the co-founders read.
Cyberattacks continue, putting communities at risk
Among others, cyberattacks throughout the U.S. in December hindered the networks of two cities and one airline – the former of which were confirmed to have been hit with ransomware.
- The City of New Orleans: The city declared a state of emergency after a ransomware attack (believed to be the Ryuk strain) impacted 450 servers and 3,500 endpoints in its IT system beginning on December 13, according to Smartcitiesworld. No data was lost and no ransom was demanded, although the attack cost the city more than $1 million – not to mention a cyber-insurance coverage upgrade cost of $10 million. The system was compromised after an employee improperly handled a phishing email.
- The City of Galt, California: According to KCRA-3 News, Galt’s IT system and phone lines were shut down on December 16 as a result of a ransomware attack in which an undisclosed ransom was also demanded. The ransom has not been paid. The attack is believed to have occurred after a police dispatcher denied access to a suspicious message requesting access to her computer.
- RavnAir Group, Alaska: The airline serving 100 different isolated Alaskan communities was forced to ground its flights on December 22 as the result of a cyber attack, although the kind used was not mentioned at the time, according to Infosecurity Magazine.
Deepfake legislation signed into law
As a part of his signing of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, President Donald Trump ruled into law legislation related to the use, monitoring and study of “deepfakes”. According to JD Supra, a deepfake is “false yet highly realistic artificial intelligence-created media.” The three provisions included in the bill that pertain to deepfakes require reports on it’s foreign weaponization, Congressional notification of deepfake activities targeting elections and the creation of a “Deepfakes Prize” competition to detect “machine manipulated media.”
Two state laws pertaining to the use of deepfakes in elections were passed earlier in the year in Texas (September) and California (October), with the latter allowing victims of nonconsensual deepfake pornography to sue for damages, per JD Supra. In particular, Texas’ law makes the creation and publication of a deepfake video with “intent to injure a candidate or influence the result of an election ” within 30 days of one. California’s law specifically requires that such videos that are published “near election day” are done so with accompanying warning labels.
Experts’ 2020 cybersecurity predictions
The coming year is set to see the continued adoption of newer technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence, although experts also predict that the tried-and-true tools and tech popular with consumers will be further improved. Still, there are many who believe that cyberattacks will be a persistent and evolving threat; an example includes SMS overrides, which can attack vulnerabilities through SIM swaps, IMSI factors and SS7 hacks, according to SC Magazine.
Speaking of deepfakes, cybersecurity professionals told CNBC that they believe that the technology will be used in 2020 to conduct automated hacking and spreading disinformation in the U.S. general and presidential elections. Armis’ Curtis Simpson told SC Magazine that he predicts one newer deepfake method that will be used is voice replication. A common prediction among experts and industry professionals is the rise of the use of artificial intelligence, which is also the driving force behind deepfake production.
One CTO told Enterprisers Project that he believes the rollout of 5G will bring about the “greatest wave of innovation since the advent of the internet,” yet another cautioned that the technology will in turn harbor a new wave of unexplored cybersecurity risks. Among other benefits, 5G is expected to add trillions of dollars to the world economy and bring about “new products, services and even new business models and industries,” according to Enterprisers. Another common experts’ prediction includes the increased adoption of remote IoT technologies such as wearables, according to Inc.
That concludes this month’s tech round-up, so be sure to check out Faronics’ blog to learn about important trends in the industry.