China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) could drive cyber espionage across many regions in the world in 2020, including Asia, a new report by security firm FireEye warns.
The report, 'The road ahead: Cyber security in 2020 and beyond', states that recent cyber espionage activities related to the BRI have targeted many governments, transportation, energy, defense, space, media and telecommunications sectors. "Simultaneously, we have seen Chinese espionage activity evolve to be more deliberate and covert amid a restructuring of the country's intelligence apparatus," the report adds.
BRI aims to boost Chinese connectivity with the world.
Besides BRI, other geopolitical tensions could also drive espionage. "Geopolitical tensions are, regardless of the inciting issue, often a significant driver of intrusions and disruptive attacks. Currently, we are seeing Western tensions with Iran accelerate the tempo of Iranian cyber operations," the report says. "We have seen activity from several Iranian groups-including APT33, APT34, and TEMP.Zagros-against financial services, media and entertainment, retail and other sectors," it adds.
Year 2020 is also expected to see the rise of targeted ransomware or malware that denies access to computer files or data until ransom is paid. Historically, targeted attacks were mostly limited to politically-motivated situations. Targeted attacks, the report states, cause victims significantly more pain and loss than non-targeted ransomware attacks popular in the past. "Based on the success of these operations observed to date, we expect them to persist through 2020," the report warns.
"2019 has seen a flurry of new threats across the cyber space in India and around the world. This includes breaches due to misuse of social media platforms, security vulnerabilities in the cloud and rising number of aggressive and disruptive malware attacks," Shrikant Shitole, Senior Director and Country Head for India, FireEye, notes in a statement.
"Come 2020, we anticipate to see a multitude of new challenges facing Indian enterprises - from securing data in the cloud, to targeted malware techniques, and geopolitical tensions driving espionage and disruptive threats. While organisations in India have realised that moving from on-premise to the cloud is important business growth, it is now time to focus on cloud security and address the challenges that come with it," he adds.
The executive says that India and many other Asian countries have been facing the repercussions of technical skills shortage, and the coming year will only bring more challenges with the rapid pace of cloud adoption.