It’s no secret that cyber security threats have increased exponentially over the last few years. With the constant release of new technology, companies can easily fall behind if they’re not analyzing how the latest security trends can potentially be leveraged either in favor of or against their business. From the rise of artificial intelligence to the new ways ransomware can wreak havoc on unsecure networks, these are the four most important cyber security trends to stay on top of this year. If you want to save time, money, and peace of mind, you’ll pay close attention and strategize a plan for dealing with all four. Simply put: they’re the 2018 trends your company can’t afford to ignore.

1. AI/Machine Learning Will Become A Double Edged Sword

2017 saw a lot of discussion about the value of artificial intelligence and how it can aid in a company’s innovation. In 2018, you can expect that conversation to shift a bit, with AI being viewed more as a double-edged sword than a golden ticket to network security. Nearly every industry has begun to invest in it, but in 2018 it will be more important to look at AI and machine learning in a strategic way. Why? Experts sense that AI will soon be leveraged by more cyber criminals to actually carry out cyber attacks on your network, not just to help prevent them. In McAfee Labs’ 2018 Threat Prediction Report, experts posit that in 2018 “adversaries will employ machine learning themselves to support attacks, learning from defensive responses, seeking to disrupt detection models, and exploiting newly discovered vulnerabilities faster than defenders can patch them.” This is the year your cyber-security team must have a clear strategy for both using AI in your company and preventing AI attacks on your network.

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2. A Renewed Commitment To Zero-Trust Security

Due to the continued rise of cyber-attacks, you can expect a renewed focus on the concept of “zero trust security”—the method of rigorously authenticating which users are allowed to access what data. It’s not just the continued rise of cyber-attacks, either, but a general consensus within most organizations that insider threats need a revamped strategy. A report from cyber security company Crowd Research Partners recently found that as much as 90% of companies and government agencies feel vulnerable to insider threats—whether those be by malicious intent or simple user error like sending an email with confidential data to the wrong person. The main factor that made people feel susceptible to insider threats was that people felt too many users had excessive access privileges. The logical solution is a renewed commitment to zero-trust security policies, going the extra mile to verify that the right people have access to the right information with rigorous authentication processes.

3. IoT Vulnerability & The Need For Blockchain

IoT or “the internet of things” is a particularly vulnerable spot for cyber security. All the devices that now connect to the internet—smart TVs, your Fitbit, your car, other smart appliances—are not regulated and updated as rigorously as computers and often rely on default passwords and weak authentication. Hacking smart devices that your company utilizes can be costly, yet these devices and systems are often not as protected as they should be. Blockchain is one of the underlying technologies for bitcoin that can make IoT devices less susceptible by keeping a digital record across hundreds or thousands of computers, lowering the chances of hacking. Businesses can leverage blockchain with IoT—what’s often referred to as “BIoT”—to better protect their devices and track their activity. Companies are beginning to leverage BIoT in creative ways, such as making traffic lights more effective at managing rush hour or tracking important shipments and deliveries.

4. The Continued Rise of Ransomware

Ransomware has become a huge issue over the past few years, allowing cyber criminals to lock up user systems and files, essentially holding them for ransom. The second week in January already saw the first reported hospital ransomware attack of 2018. As Healthcare IT News reported, an entire Indiana hospital’s network had to be shut down after a cyber-criminal sent a notice saying they were holding parts of the system “hostage” until they received a lofty cryptocurrency payment. Unfortunately, security experts predict that ransomware attacks like this will only increase and become more sophisticated, transitioning to cyber sabotage of entire systems. Organizations have to double down on their efforts for preventing ransomware attacks if they want to avoid full-blown service disruption. Making sure you have the correct anti-malware software running on all company devices is the first step, but you should also need a comprehensive strategy in place to prevent such costly attacks.

At the end of the day, the threat of cyber attacks will only continue to loom over companies both big and small in 2018. But by staying on top of these trends and potential threats—and implementing the necessary preventative measures—you can stay one step ahead of attacks that could wreak havoc on your organization. Arming your business with the correct policies to secure your infrastructure now will save you time, money, and peace of mind for the year ahead. Here’s to more of all three in 2018.