Healthcare breaches, cybercrime, ransomware to get worse in 2016, Symantec says

Internet of Things opens door for attacks, hackers to target Apple in new year, company predicts.
By Bernie Monegain
11:29 AM
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Symantec's security intelligence team has put together its top predictions for 2016 and the healthcare industry will see more and worse of just about everything ranging from cybercrime and data breaches to ransomware and attacks against infrastructure.

[See also: 7 largest data breaches of 2015.]

Here are the security vendor's 8 predictions for the coming year:

1. Internet of Things fuels need for more security

"As consumers buy more smartwatches, activity trackers, holographic headsets, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the need for improved security on these will become more pressing," Symantec authors wrote. With predictions that 30 billion devices will be connected by 2020 "regulation may be forced to catch up to technology in 2016."

2. Cybercriminals will target Apple products

Apple's products have long been considered safer than Windows machines but that could start to change this year. Comprising 13.5 percent of global smartphones, according to IDC, "a rising number of threat actors have begun developing specific malware designed to infect devices running Mac OS X or iOS," Symantec said.

3. Ransomware gangs and malware distribution networks will increase

Ransomware is on the rise, and Symantec predicted that the gangs who crafted the original ransomware are still at it, as are other established cybercriminals. "Clearly," Symantec wrote, "the fraud is profitable and likely to increase."

4. Attacks and breaches will spark cyber insurance uptick

Two key factors are at play on this one: regulations and fraud. Federal regulations require healthcare organizations to respond to breaches and issue public notifications, which makes insurance more attractive. So will the damage done by criminals using stolen information for fraud because it can help minimize their risk.

5. Attacks against critical infrastructure will increase

"We have already seen attacks on infrastructure and in 2016 we can expect this to continue to increase," Symantec wrote. Nation-states, criminals and hacktavists have all been ramping up their activity at the same time that the growing number of IoT devices "introduce bigger attack surfaces into the more traditionally hard to secure environments."

6. Encryption becomes more common

Whereas the mantra "encrypt everywhere" is taking hold in the broader technology industry, healthcare has been behind but the constant stream of data breaches holds some potential to change that. "With so much communication and interaction between people and systems happening over insecure and vulnerable networks like the Internet, strong encryption for this data in transit has been well recognized for some time and it is generally implemented," Symantec noted.

7. Biometric security reaches a tipping point

The increase that occurred during the last two years is "expected to grow significantly with major industry players implementing new capabilities both with new sensors in devices and with adoption of biometric authentication frameworks," according to Symantec. "Biometrics can can finally answer the 'what's in it for me' question that consumers have been asking."

8. Gamification will show up in the security realm

Humans are typically the weakest link in a healthcare organization's security practices and Symantec said security gamification can be used for user and consumer training to potentially avoid phishing scams and help users better understand strong passwords.

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