Extreme Cybersecurity Predictions for 2019

Prediction blogs are fun but also kind of dangerous because we’re putting in writing educated guesses that may never come true and then we look, um, wrong. Also dangerous because if we’re going to get any airtime at all, we have to really push the boundary of incredulity. So here at Shape, we’ve decided to double down and make some extreme cybersecurity predictions, and then we’ll post this under the corporate account so none of our names are on it. Whoa, did we just say that out loud?

“Baby, when you log in to my heart, are you being fake?” Photo Credit: HBO

Forget the Singularity, Worry About the Inversion

New York Magazine’s “Life in Pixels” column recently featured a cute piece on the Fake Internet. They’re just coming to the realization that a huge number of Internet users are, in fact, fake. The users are really robots (ahem, bots) that are trying to appear like humans—no, not like Westworld, but like normal humans driving a browser or using a mobile app. The article cites engineers at YouTube worrying about when fake users will surpass real users, a moment they call “The Inversion.”  We at Shape are here to tell you that if it hasn’t happened already, it will happen in 2019. We protect the highest-profile web assets in the world, and we regularly see automated traffic north of 90%. For pages like “password-reset.html” it can be 99.95% automated traffic!

Zombie Device Fraud

There are an estimated five million mobile apps on the market, with new ones arriving every day, and an estimated 60 to 90 installed on the average smartphone. We’ve seen how easy it can be for criminals to exploit developer infrastructure to infect mobile apps and steal bitcoins, for instance. But there’s another way criminals can profit from app users without having to sneak malware into their apps—the bad guys can just buy the apps and make them do whatever they want, without users having any idea that they are using malicious software. The economics of the app business—expensive to create and maintain, hard to monetize—mean less than one in 10,000 apps will end up making money, according to Gartner. This glut of apps creates a huge business opportunity for criminals, who are getting creative in the ways they sneak onto our devices. In 2019, we’ll see a rise in a new type of online fraud where criminals purchase mobile apps just to get access to the users. They then can convert app-user activity into illegitimate fraudulent actions by hiding malware underneath the app interface. For example, a user may think he is playing a game, but in reality his clicks and keystrokes are actually doing something else. The user sees that he is hitting balls and scoring points, but behind the scenes he is actually clicking on fake ads or liking social media posts. In effect, criminals are using these purchased mobile apps to create armies of device bots that they then use for massive fraud campaigns.

Robots will Kill Again

Have you seen those YouTubes from Boston Dynamics? The ones where robots that look like headless Doberman pinschers open doors for each other? You extrapolate and imagine them tearing into John Connor and the human resistance inside. They are terrifying. But they’re not the robots we’re thinking of (yet). A gaggle of autonomous vehicle divisions are already driving robot fleets around Silicon Valley. Google’s Weymo and Uber use these robots to deliver people to their next holiday party, and we’ve heard of at least two robot-car companies delivering groceries. Uber already had the misfortune of a traffic fatality when its autonomous Tesla hit a cyclist in Arizona last year. But Uber robots will be back on the road in 2019, competing for miles with Weymo. Combine these fleets with the others, and more victims more can join Robert Williams and Kenji Urada in the “killed-by-robot” hall of fame. Hopefully it won’t be you, dear reader, and hopefully none of these deaths will be caused by remote attackers. Fingers crossed!

Reimagining Behavioral Biometrics

Behavioral biometrics are overhyped today because enterprises lack the frequency of user interactions and types of data needed to create identity profiles of digital users. But in 2019, behavioral analytics will merge with macro biometrics to become truly effective. The market will move to a combination of macro biometrics, like Face ID, and traditional behavioral biometrics, like keyboard behavior and swiping. Apple is ahead of the game with Face ID and has applied for a voice biometrics patent to be used with Siri.

Kim Jong Un as Online Crime Kingpin?

North Korea will become a dominant player in the criminal underground with more frequent and sophisticated financially motivated hacks, rivaling Russian gangs. International sanctions have pushed the country to be more economically resourceful, so it has beefed up its cyber operations.The northern half of the Korean peninsula has been blamed for cyberattacks on banks, via SWIFT transfers, and bitcoin mining, in addition to traditional espionage involving governments, aviation, and other industries. In 2019, cyber attacks originating from groups (allegedly) associated with North Korea will continue to be successful and enforcement remains challenging. And with the recent Marriott breach affecting 500 million Starwood Hotels guests, the theft of passport numbers means nation-states and other attackers have an even more valuable and rare tool at their disposal for financial, tax, and identity fraud.  

All Breaches Aren’t Created Equal

As industries mature, we refine the metrics we use. In 2019 we’ll see enterprises change how they approach data breaches, moving beyond identifying size and scope, focusing instead on potency and longevity. Breach impact will be measured by the overall quality and long-term value of the compromised credentials. For instance, do these assets unlock one account or one hundred accounts? Most recently we’ve seen the Starwood data heist become one of the biggest breaches of its kind, largely due to the bevy of personal data exposed. In this case, since the unauthorized access dates back four years, we can assume this data has already fueled and will continue to fuel serious acts of financial fraud, tax fraud, and identity theft. As hacker tools become more sophisticated and spills more frequent, businesses can’t afford to ignore downstream breaches that result from people reusing the same passwords on multiple accounts. In reality, today’s breaches are fueling a complex and interconnected cybercriminal economy. In 2019, expect businesses to join forces and adopt collective defense strategies to keep one breach from turning into a thousand.

The Future Looks, Um, Futuristic!

These are our extreme predictions for 2019. Will they come true? Some of them, probably. We hope the robots don’t actually kill people, but we’re pretty sure that the Inversion (where automated traffic surpasses human traffic) is a sure bet, if it hasn’t happened already.

Where do you want to be when the Inversion happens?
Working with us, at Shape!

The Best of Shape Security 2018

“Hold on there, critics!” – Photo Credit: Warner Brothers

Focus on the Good Things

There are already too many blogs focusing on the bad things that happened this year. Focusing on the bad things in life makes you miss the good things. For example, reading through the reviews of all 61 “worst movies of 2018took us would take you 96 minutes (hint: the worst is not Rampage; that movie was awesome, and so true to the game’s aesthetic). And you don’t have to read “The Worst Rappers of 2018,” because you already know XXXTentacion and Post Malone are going to be on it. (Post, if you read this, we’re just kidding; call us! We left a Glock in your car, we think.) Or, the worst cryptocurrency of 2018 (answer: all of them).

Instead, let’s focus on positive things, like the best of Shape Security in 2018. What kind of things? You know, open-source software, funny moments, tech epiphanies, and playful microsites. Public stuff! But enough topical preamblelet’s just show you!

January – Unminify JavaScript Tool

https://github.com/shapesecurity/unminify

You might not have known this until now, but Shape’s architects are some of the smartest JavaScript experts in the world. Like, seriously, these are some of the guys who work on the JS standards. One fellow’s brain is so big he has to use an external brain pack. These genuses generously contribute to the Shape Security GitHub. Most of their tools are for solving problems beyond the ken of us mere mortals in marketing, but not this one.  

Unminify is “a little project to undo several of the horrible things JavaScript build tools will do to JavaScript.” Suppose a bunch of super-gnarly malicious JavaScript is scraping your site, but you can’t tell because it’s obfuscated and minified. Run it through Unminify, which will expand the JavaScript into something right out of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.

Warning: Check out the hilarious “safety” levels (below), which range from “useless” to “wildly -unsafe.” Come to think of it, those adjectives describe some of us at Shape marketing!

Installation:

npm install -g unminify

CLI Usage:

uniminify /path/to/file.js
  • --safety may be given to enable/disable transformations based on the user’s required safety guarantees. Refer to the safety levels documentation for more details. The value of --safety may be one of
    • useless
    • safe (default)
    • mostly-safe
    • unsafe
    • wildly-unsafe
  • --additional-transform may be given zero or more times, each followed by a path to a module providing an AST transform; the function signals that the transformation was not applied by returning its input

You can also use the unminify API. Lovely! Merry Christmas!

May: How Starbucks Combats Account Takeover

“When you don’t know what to give someone for Christmas, you give them a Starbucks gift card, right?” — Mike Hughes, Starbucks. LOL, guilty as charged right here. One Christmas, we gave out only Starbucks gift cards. The sheer global ubiquity of the green mermaid logo ensures that its gift card program will remain one of the largest, if not the largest, in the world. In 2013 and 2014, Starbucks was one of the most targeted online portals for gift card fraud. They turned to Shape Security, and they were blown away! Don’t believe us?

Starbucks: Why traditional security methods don’t work for ATO

In this sobering webinar, our co-founder and CEO, Derek Smith, draws the story out of Mike Hughes, Starbucks Director of Information Security.

This was the first time we ever got “official” with a customer—you know, like Facebook Official. If you’re looking for the SparkNotes on the video, read this blog we wrote earlier (while sitting in a Starbucks!).

July: 2018 Credential Spill Report

In July we released our marquee communique, the second annual Credential Spill Report. Shape has a unique perspective on credential spills and credential stuffing, because we see more re-used credentials than any other company on the planet.

Credential Stuffing Attacks on a Top 5 US Bank

The report is full of titillating details about 2018’s automated attackers. For example, the chart above shows five different attack groups hitting a Top 5 US bank at the same time. We actually split and track each group and give them cute names. The “Smooth Criminals” had the best and most unique credential list. Smooth Criminals, if you’re reading this, we want you to know that we’ve put you on Santa’s naughty list.

August: Blackfish Inner Workings, Explained!

In August, we answered the questions “What is Blackfish?” and “How does it work?” in our blog entry, “Look, Ma, No Passwords!” Spoilers: Blackfish uses a Bloom filter to store a set of leaked credentials, ensuring we don’t actually expose all those individual credentials again. Wait, what?

The celebrated 2017 NIST Digital Identity Guidelines suggest that organization check incoming credentials against a corpus of known already-leaked credentials. Sounds sensible, right? You’re nodding your head. Except, where is this known already-leaked credential list, and how are you going to check it? You could hire security researchers to build Pastebin scrapers and download breach lists and pay some shady hackers for their 1.4 billion leaked creds and jam them all into a database. And then try to secure that database so it doesn’t get leaked.

Or, you could just buy Blackfish, because we do all that for you, and we secure the database in such a way that if it’s compromised, no credentials leak. Plus, we’ve got credentials that aren’t even out on the dark web yet. It’s a total no-brainer. It even says that on the packaging. “Blackfish: No-brainer edition.”

September: Two FBI Agents Break It Down

Trends in Online Fraud from the FBI and Shape

M.K. Palmore, Head of the FBI’s San Francisco Cyber Branch, and our very own Dan Woods, VP of Shape Intelligence, who is himself a former FBI Special Agent, teamed up to fight crime and accidentally defenestrate an entire brigade of social-justice warriors. Okay, we made that last part up. But really, these are two of the finest speakers in the industry, and you’ll want to hear what they have to say about the best practices for fighting cybercriminals and financial fraud.

November: Exploiting Developer Infrastructure is Ridiculously Easy

Written by Shape’s own Jarrod S. Overson (“J-Rod,” as he known in the hood) on the beautiful Medium platform, this fascinating breakdown tells the story of a shadowy attacker bent on draining the last dregs from the bottom of the Bitcoin barrel. By exploiting the current, far-too-trusting developer infrastructure, the attacker put in place an encrypted payload designed to compromise a particular set of Bitcoin wallets. If you’re a JS developer, designer, HTML code monkey, or DevOps engineer, you’ll want to read J-Rod’s excellent analysis.

November: #1 Fastest Growing Company in Silicon Valley

In November, Deloitte recognized Shape as the third-fastest growing company in the United States, and the number one fastest in Silicon Valley, in their Deloitte Technology Fast 500 List. Some companies are excited about their 20% annual revenue growth. Shape grew 23,576 percent over the past three years. That’s a huge number! Millennials won’t understand this reference, but if you wrote the number on a check it would look like twenty-three thousand, five hundred and seventy six. Also, it would be in cursive, which they couldn’t understand either.

Actually, we shouldn’t mock Millennials, because a regiment of brilliant Millennials work at Shape, and we’re hiring more all the time. But not everyone we hire is young, or brilliant, or good looking. Take, for example, this guy:

December: The Hiring of B-list Cybercelebrity David Holmes

California’s recent ban on discrimination against the mentally unstable has finally allowed Shape Security to lure David Holmes from his padded cell in northern Colorado. Rumor has it that for a signing bonus he was promised access to the amazing catered food at Shape’s Silicon Valley HQ, plus a generous regimen of mood stabilizers. He is expected to pen blog listicles, research food journalism, and forget his corporate password 20 times over the next two years.

December: Shape and Okta Get Facebook Official

In December we unveiled our partnership with Okta. Okta is all about logins and authentication and authorization. That makes them a perfect partner for Shape, as we’ll provide Okta’s customers our frictionless defense against bots, credential stuffing attacks, and fake account registrations.

The Okta and Shape partnership extends across all major touch points: web, mobile, and APIs. To learn more about using Shape to enhance your Okta SSO and customer portals, check out Okta’s Shape page, where they have an Okta+Shape datasheet!

December: JPMC Inducts Shape Into Its Hall of Innovation

Once a year, the JPMorgan Chase Hall of Innovation recognizes select emerging technology companies for their innovation, business value, and disruptive nature. This year, the award was presented to Shape at the J.P. Morgan Technology Innovation Symposium, held in Menlo Park.

Rohan Amin, the CISO at JPMC, extolled: “We were impressed by Shape’s innovative approach to help enable a high-security, low-friction user experience… and we appreciate our partnership with them.”

Here’s to Another Great Year!

The Hall of Fame induction was a humbling moment, and one that seems like a great way to look back on the year. Frivolity aside, we hope you can see that it has indeed been a fantastic year at Shape Security, and we have every reason to believe that 2019 will be even better!

[Editor’s Note: If you were really paying attention, you probably noticed that the authors violated essentially all of the tenets of The Elements of Style, not to mention good taste, in this article, and even misspelled the word “geniuses,” which speaks volumes about their competence.]