Nine 2019 Cybersecurity Predictions from WatchGuard Technologies

By: Kayla Matthews

WatchGuard Technologies, a leading cybersecurity company with more than 20 years in the business recently gave several predictions for 2019.

Here they are, and why those forecasts matter to IT professionals and consumers at large.

1. The Rise of Malicious Chatbots

Chatbots help people plan trips, cope with loneliness and learn about what companies offer, among other things. WatchGuard thinks it won’t be long before individuals see chatbots engineered for malicious purposes, such as to perpetuate social engineering.

Some developers may build dangerous chatbots and use them to get people to reveal personal information or download attachments that contain viruses. Taking that approach wouldn’t be hard since many legitimate chatbots give responses that encourage trust or at least build rapport.

But, malicious chatbots could also become apparent if hackers take them over. With these scenarios potentially on the horizon, people must start to treat chatbots as they do — or should — suspicious emails. That requires vetting them for legitimacy and not disclosing personal details, even if they have been using the chatbots for a while.

2. Ransomware Hindering Utilities and Industrial Systems

Recent years have featured worsening ransomware attacks. In one especially sophisticated instance, a hospital system was shut down, and workers had to resort to using pens and paper.

Another attack targeted employees of the city of Atlanta. Those people were told not to turn on their computers and alerted to monitor their bank accounts since some people engaged in e-bill pay services through the city network.

Soon, representatives from WatchGuard technologies believe there will be an even stronger transition toward disabling ransomware attempts, specifically through utility companies and other industrial systems.

If those attacks come to pass, the daily activities people enjoy could be severely disrupted. WatchGuard also says the average ransom amounts will increase by 6,500 percent, posing even more challenges to companies.

3. A Multinational Security Treaty From the United Nations

There have been numerous instances of cyberattacks launched by nations, which have devastating effects on the residents of those countries.

The growing prevalence and threats from these attacks will prompt the United Nations to create a cybersecurity treaty adopted by numerous nations. If that happens, societies can expect more severe and uniform consequences for those cybercriminals.

4. A Nation-State Launches a “Fire Sale” Attack

Films, including the fourth movie of the “Die Hard” franchise, explored the possibility of attacks compromising entire countries — the events the United Nations would want to prevent in the previous point. WatchGuard warns that 2019 could be the year when such a “fire sale” attack happens. Then, entire infrastructures, like transportation routes, banks and energy companies, could become useless.

WatchGuard stops short of predicting which nation will be the first to suffer from such an attack. But, it warns that when it happens, the effects will be tremendous. Individual attacks on systems are already possible, and the attempts only require coordination. Vigilance could help spot such an attack quickly, limiting the damage caused.

Minimizing the issues that occur is particularly important in instances involving stolen data. Research indicates that 42 percent of businesses that suffered breaches lost more than a fifth of their business opportunities as a result.

5. Cybercriminals Won’t Need Files to Orchestrate Their Attacks

The WatchGuard report also mentions the need to look out for new attack methods. Specifically, it discusses a type of malware called “vaporworms” that does not require files and is self-propagating. Since files are unnecessary, people could not rely on current antivirus methods to detect that kind of malware.

6. A WPA3 Wi-Fi Network Will Get Compromised

The material from WatchGuard recognizes that the new WPA3 Wi-Fi encryption standard has significant improvements over earlier versions. But, the company believes 2019 will nevertheless be the year when it gets infiltrated.

The company specifically brings up the possibility of a layer two threat vector and discusses how WP3 needs more comprehensive and integrated security. Otherwise, people will mistakenly believe that the new standard protects them from all risks, including the layer two risks that may still be present.

WatchGuard points out the possibility for “evil twin” attacks that lure people to use fake Wi-Fi hotspots to get people’s information through a “man in the middle” attack. So, it’s crucial that people do not blindly trust the WPA3 standard and realize that even improvements can have shortcomings.

7. A Biometric Attack Will Expose Single-Factor Authentication Risks

Many people use their fingerprints to unlock gadgets, such as smartphones. These single-factor authentication methods seem sufficient due to the unique qualities of such biological properties. However, WatchGuard believes 2019 will prove how single-factor authentication through biometrics is not immune to hacks.

People might even see these risks appear on gadgets like wearables. Cybersecurity professionals are trying to lock those gadgets down with methods like voice-based security, but the potential for impersonation could still exist. That’s why multifactor authentication offers a safeguard against such infiltration.

8. The Internet Held Hostage

Many people know what it’s like when popular websites like Amazon or Facebook go down, and those instances are frustrating enough.

But, the WatchGuard predictions pose the situation of hackers attacking the Internet’s infrastructure. Then, a large percentage of the websites used daily could suddenly become inoperable.

9. More Schools Include Cybersecurity in the Curriculum

The threats highlighted in the WatchGuard coverage illustrate why it’s more important than ever for people to recognize the signs of cyberattacks.

Some schools train young students in cybersecurity Although not mentioned by directly by WatchGuard, this trend will become more evident in 2019 due to the severity of the threats the report covered. Early training helps address the cybersecurity skills gap, too.

People Must Exercise Awareness

Many individuals use the internet without thinking about it. They only get concerned when things go wrong. By that point, it may already be too late to show proactiveness.

In 2019 and beyond, societies must cultivate collective cultures of cybersecurity awareness. Then, it should become more difficult for hackers to wreak havoc.



Kayla Matthews writes about cybersecurity and technology for publications like Malwarebytes, Security Boulevard, InformationWeek and CloudTweaks. To read more from Kayla, visit her blog: