Cyber security is a continuous game of Spy vs. Spy. Every time a new technology is introduced, the potential attack surface expands. The moment one vulnerability is patched, hackers find another way in. Keeping up can feel overwhelming, even for security professionals.

In no particular order, here are the top cyber threats that public and private sector organizations face as we head into the latter part of 2018.

Cloud Breaches

Despite the best efforts of major cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services, to educate their customers about cloud security, the epidemic of cloud breaches has continued unabated. Some cloud security threats mirror those that organizations have been combating on-premises for years, while others are unique to the cloud environment. The good news is that proactive governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) measures can prevent cloud breaches.


Last week, news broke that medical testing provider LabCorp had been victimized by what it called “a new variant” of ransomware, possibly a mutation of the SamSam virus. Earlier this year, Verizon reported that ransomware remains the most common variant of malware, with the healthcare sector taking the brunt of the attacks. While ransomware is responsible for less than half of cyber incidents involving malicious code overall, in the healthcare industry, that figure is 85%. Hackers like ransomware because it’s inexpensive, low-risk on their part, and results in a near-immediate payday, especially when it’s used to cripple highly sensitive IT environments, such as found in the healthcare industry.

Election Hacking

Election security was one of the top cyber threats heading into the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into election interference resulted in 12 indictments against Russian nationals just last week. U.S. states have been expressing their concerns about the upcoming midterms for several months, and Microsoft recently alleged that midterm election hacking has already commenced. Elections are the cornerstone of our democracy; Congress must stop dragging its feet and immediately help the states address election security.

Cryptojacking/Cryptocurrency Mining

Even though ransomware is the most common malware variant, cryptojacking and crypto-mining malware are insidious up-and-comers. Once nearly exclusive to mobile phones and other small IoT devices, “next-generation” cryptojacking malware, such as WannaMine and Smominru, target desktop machines and servers. These malware variants are highly destructive, extremely difficult to take down, and frighteningly easy to spread. Earlier this year, thousands of websites, including government sites in the U.S., the UK, and Australia, were infected after hackers injected malware into the popular Browsealoud plugin.


The easiest, most popular way to access a system is not backdoor hacking but using legitimate login credentials to waltz right in the front door. That’s why the old standby, phishing, kicks off 90% of all cyber attacks. The FBI reports that business email compromise spear phishing scams result in $12 billion in losses annually. Like other cyber threats, phishing has evolved and isn’t just about email anymore. Modern cyber criminals utilize text messages, social media, and even phone calls to snag login credentials and PII.

Attacks on ICS, SCADA systems, and Other Operational Technology

Attacks on operational technology (OT) systems — the “behind-the-scenes” technology that powers factories, mining operations, and critical infrastructure such as utilities, healthcare facilities, and transportation networks — are rapidly escalating. OT attacks don’t just cripple business operations; they present threats to employee and public safety, and even national security. Yet many organizations focus their security efforts on their IT systems and give little thought to OT security, other than possibly air-gapping their OT systems. OT systems face unique vulnerabilities and threats, and air-gapping no longer works as a standalone solution.

The specific threats and vulnerabilities your organization faces depend on many factors, which is why it’s imperative to have a reputable cyber security firm perform a customized risk assessment.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Peters is the CEO of Lazarus Alliance, Inc., the Proactive Cyber Security™ firm, and Continuum GRC. He has served as an independent information security consultant, executive, researcher, and author. He is an internationally recognized and awarded security expert with years of IT and business leadership experience and many previous executive leadership positions.

He has contributed significantly to curriculum development for graduate degree programs in information security, advanced technology, cyberspace law, and privacy, and to industry standard professional certifications. He has been featured in many publications and broadcast media outlets as the “Go-to Guy” for executive leadership, information security, cyberspace law, and governance.