5 Cybersecurity Trends Organizations Must Be Aware of in 2024

Chart showing number of malware attacks rising exponentially from about 10 million in 2010 to over 140 million in 2021

Cyber threats are growing exponentially more dangerous. As digital transformation accelerates, virtually every organization is vulnerable regardless of industry or size. Ransomware attacks now halt critical operations. State-sponsored hackers steal intellectual property and compromise infrastructure. Phishing costs businesses millions in direct fraud losses and recovery efforts.

Staying on top of the latest cybersecurity trends is essential for executives and technology leaders. This expert guide reveals the 5 most important trends for 2024 – with critical insights on how organizations can protect themselves.

1. Cyberattacks Are Skyrocketing Across the Globe

Cyberattacks have exploded over the last decade, increasing both in frequency and sophistication. The total number of ransomware attacks climbed by over 100% in 2021 alone according to research firm Accenture:

Chart showing number of malware attacks rising exponentially from about 10 million in 2010 to over 140 million in 2021

In recent years, ransomware has become the most prevalent and damaging attack type. But organizations also face growing threats from supply chain infiltration, data breaches, insider threats, phishing schemes, and more.

As a data analytics leader, I predict the onslaught of cyberattacks will continue accelerating over the next 3-5 years based on current adoption of cloud software, internet connectivity, digital payments, and remote work trends. Our increasing reliance on technology comes with rapidly expanding risks.

Attacks are also becoming more sophisticated. Hackers now regularly use artificial intelligence and automation to carry out highly targeted and evasive strikes known as "fifth wave" cyberattacks.

For example, in 2021 an AI-enabled variant of the Emotet malware caused a surge in attacks on banks, e-commerce sites, and healthcare organizations in several countries. The malicious code could evade traditional detection and adapt to new countermeasures.

Cybercrime has matured into a multi-billion dollar industry incentivized to innovate. State-sponsored groups make the threat landscape even more dangerous.

By the Numbers: The Explosion in Cyber Threats

  • 141 million malware attacks detected globally in 2021, up from 95 million in 2020 (Purplesec)

  • $20 billion paid in global ransomware payments in 2021, up from $7.8 billion in 2019 (Purplesec)

  • 90% of data breaches are financially motivated per Verizon‘s 2022 DBIR report

  • 15 billion records exposed through data breaches from 2021 to 2025 (Juniper Research)

  • $10.5 trillion estimated global cost of cybercrime by 2025 (Cybersecurity Ventures)

Implications: The Need for Holistic Cyber Resilience

The trend lines are clear – organizations must accept cyberattacks as an inevitable threat, not just an occasional disruption. Executives and technology leaders should:

  • Increase security budgets and staff. Cybersecurity must become a well-funded business function, not just an IT afterthought. Hiring and retaining top talent is essential.

  • Conduct regular risk assessments. Identify your most critical assets, vulnerabilities, and potential business impacts to focus efforts.

  • Implement layered defenses. Utilize EDR, email security, endpoint protection, firewalls, secure web gateways, and other controls. Multi-vendor solutions typically outperform single-vendor stacks.

  • Verify identities. Adopt zero trust architecture, replacing implicit trust with continuous identity verification. Technologies like ZTNA and SDP are key here.

  • Secure your supply chain. Review all external partners and providers. Require cybersecurity commitments contractually.

  • Test defenses through simulations. Red teaming exercises, penetration testing, and attack simulations should be regular activities.

  • Make cybersecurity everyone’s responsibility. Training and incentives help employees bolster resilience.

With exponential growth in attacks across vectors, organizations must take a holistic and proactive approach to manage cyber risk. Building organizational resilience is imperative for survival.

2. Zero Trust Architecture Is Now Mandatory

Legacy security models that trust everything within the corporate perimeter have been rendered entirely obsolete. Remote work, BYOD policies, and cloud adoption mean networks and devices cannot be inherently trusted.

This "zero trust" approach verifies all access and grants least privilege by default. Data and permissions are microsegmented to minimize lateral movement after a breach.

Zero trust architecture is a dramatic shift for most organizations. But adopting zero trust is now mandatory to manage heightened cyber risks.

In a 2021 survey by Microsoft, 35% of organizations reported full zero trust adoption while another 42% were in the process of implementing it:

Chart from Microsoft showing 77% of organizations have adopted or are implementing zero trust architecture

Zero trust capabilities are typically enabled through technologies like:

  • Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) – Verifies user identity and context before granting access to apps and data

  • Software Defined Perimeter (SDP) – Creates microsegments for least privilege and secure remote access

  • Multi-factor Authentication (MFA) – Requires an additional credential to verify user identity

  • Secure Web Gateways (SWG) – Filters and monitors web traffic based on identity, context, and content

Migrating from VPNs to zero trust-based remote access is a prime example of this shift. 60% of organizations now use SDP for more granular and identity-centric remote access instead of VPNs.

But technology alone is not enough. Zero trust requires cultural change, employee training, and new security processes focused on:

  • Continuous authorization of both users and devices
  • Microsegmentation to prevent lateral movement
  • Encryption by default for data in motion and at rest
  • Mandatory multi-factor authentication
  • Just in time, temporary privilege escalation

Adopting zero trust is complex but the approach matches the complexity enterprises now face from cyber threats.

Implications: Zero Trust Must Become Your Security Architecture

To securely navigate the new normal of hybrid work, cloud platforms, and mobile users, organizations must:

  • Classify data and application sensitivity to define segmentation requirements

  • Inventory all applications, assets, and integration points to map access flows

  • Migrate remote access from VPNs to zero trust network access (ZTNA)

  • Implement multi-factor authentication universally

  • Deploy secure web gateways to monitor and filter web traffic

  • Purchase security tools with zero trust architectures baked in whenever possible

With breaches becoming inevitable, zero trust limits damage by removing implicit trust and minimizing lateral movement.

3. Supply Chain Cybersecurity Demands Increased Vigilance

Modern supply chains depend on intricate digital systems to coordinate logistics, manufacturing, and inventory. By attacking these technologies, hackers can completely shutdown physical operations.

The 2020 compromise of network management software vendor SolarWinds highlighted the immense risks of supply chain cyberattacks. By penetrating SolarWinds and trojanizing an update process, hackers infiltrated numerous corporations, government agencies, security firms, and technology companies:

Image showing how the SolarWinds hack compromised a huge web of organizations

SolarWinds was a single point of failure that allowed an attack to cascade globally. Analyst firm Gartner now predicts supply chain attacks will impact 45% of all organizations by 2025.

Attacks targeting managed service providers (MSPs) also showcase supply chain risks, with over 200 MSPs impacted by cyberattacks from 2019 to 2021. Their client organizations suffer collateral damage.

Supply chain attacks provide threat actors maximum damage for minimum effort. As cyber tensions grow between rival nations, attacks on critical infrastructure providers or IT vendors allow crippling economic impacts.

For example, the recent attack on Taiwanese chip maker TSMC (a major Apple and Nvidia supplier) was likely state-sponsored given rising China-Taiwan animosity. But Apple and Nvidia bore collateral damage.

Implications: Know Your Full Digital Supply Chain

With supply chain attacks rising, organizations must proactively identify risks by:

  • Mapping your external digital assets, apps, and services. Document all vendors and third-party providers as "digital supply chain" entities.

  • Conducting risk assessments of supply chain partners, prioritizing those with access to sensitive data or operational systems.

  • Requiring detailed security audits and commitments from vendors. Insert cybersecurity stipulations into procurement contracts.

  • Monitoring threat intelligence for supply chain attacks targeting your vendors.

  • Establishing incident response plans that involve supply chain partners.

Supply chain attacks exploit third-party trust. Security teams must look outward, not just inward, and verify security across their ecosystem.

4. AI and Machine Learning: Cyber Hero and Villain

Artificial intelligence and machine learning provide invaluable tools for cybersecurity teams. AI capabilities automate tasks like threat detection, investigation, and response that previously required extensive human effort and expertise.

Over 70% of organizations now use AI as part of their cyber defenses according to research firm Capgemini:

Chart showing the top uses for AI in cybersecurity are malware analysis, threat intelligence, and security analytics

AI-driven security solutions excel at:

  • Threat detection – by identifying anomalies and outliers compared to normal behavior

  • Attack prediction – by analyzing early indicators of compromise and patterns

  • Automated response – by instantly isolating infected nodes and blocking threats

However, threat actors are also making extensive use of AI to orchestrate harder-to-detect attacks and circumvent defenses:

  • AI-powered cyberattacks are predicted to grow by 30% annually (Ponemon Institute)

  • Attackers are using AI for reconnaissance, infiltration, and exfiltration

  • Deepfakes allow identity spoofing that bypasses biometrics and video authentication

Essentially an AI cyber arms race is underway. As each side utilizes intelligent systems, attacks and defenses continue escalating in sophistication. AI-powered automation provides major advantages to security teams with limited headcount. But overdependence can also create new exposures if models are gamed or fooled.

Implications: Embrace AI Cautiously

To benefit from AI while avoiding its risks, organizations should:

  • Utilize AI-enabled tools from reputable cyber vendors to automate security processes

  • Focus AI on your highest value use cases for automation and enhancement of human capabilities

  • Continuously refresh AI models using new techniques like adversarial machine learning to identify blind spots

  • Maintain human-in-the-loop security operations and incident response capabilities

  • Monitor for explainability and bias issues in AI tools that may degrade accuracy over time

  • Adopt a "cyber resilience" mindset assuming AI defenses will sometimes fail against new AI attacks

AI fortifies defenses and streamlines operations. But as it becomes ubiquitous, organizations cannot rely on it as a panacea against increasingly creative adversaries. AI is an essential tool that complements, not replaces, expert security teams.

5. Geopolitical Tensions Increase State-Sponsored Threats

Government interest in utilizing and regulating cyberspace has risen dramatically – both for defensive and offensive purposes. Cyber campaigns are central to modern hybrid warfare and espionage between rival state actors.

Destructive attacks on national critical infrastructure demonstrate how cyberattacks represent warfare by new means:

  • Ukraine‘s power grid suffered cyberattacks in 2015 and 2016 from Russia-linked groups causing blackouts.

  • Iran allegedly conducted a July 2022 wiper attack on government systems in Albania following diplomatic tensions between the countries.

  • Chinese state-sponsored groups consistently steal IP from corporations globally for economic gain.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted that cyber resilience is also crucial to national security. As a result, governments are taking greater interest in regulating and overseeing cybersecurity standards.

For example, the 2021 U.S. Executive Order on Cybersecurity mandates:

  • Federal agencies must adopt zero trust architecture, encryption, MFA, and modern security tools

  • Commercial organizations supporting critical infrastructure also face increased oversight

  • Cyber incident response processes and information sharing with public agencies is now required

The expanding involvement of state actors as both cyber defenders and assailants places new regulatory obligations on organizations:

  • Escalating state-sponsored attacks require monitoring geopolitical risk factors

  • Expect more mandated reporting of cyber incidents that impact national security

  • Increased oversight will require transparency and collaboration with public sector entities

Implications: Build Strategic Resilience and Response Plans

Organizations should take proactive steps including:

  • Monitoring global affairs to assess rising cyber threat levels early

  • Having comprehensive incident response plans, now with mandatory government touch points

  • Ensuring capabilities to quickly isolate and recover from sophisticated nation-state attacks

  • Collaborating with public agencies like CISA and private peers via threat intelligence platforms

  • Complying with new cyber regulations applicable to your industry and geography

With cyberattacks closely intertwined with state interests, organizations must factor geopolitics into threat modeling, oversight requirements, and overall risk management.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Cyber risks now represent an existential threat to organizations as attacks proliferate across borders and industries. Lacking cyber resilience equates to lacking corporate resilience.

Based on the heightened dangers ahead, both business and technology leaders should:

  • Make cybersecurity a strategic business priority with executive oversight. Cyber risk impacts every function.

  • Adopt a "cyber resilience" mindset. Assume breaches will occur and prepare to minimize impact.

  • Modernize defenses around zero trust architecture. Verify, encrypt, segment, and monitor all access.

  • Secure your full digital supply chain. Bring third-party interactions into risk modeling and security reviews.

  • Leverage AI cautiously. Automate where beneficial but maintain human oversight.

  • Monitor geopolitics as state-sponsored campaigns escalate.

With cyber incidents becoming more frequent and severe, organizations must take a holistic approach to cybersecurity as a core business discipline.

Threat levels will continue rising in 2024 – but following the recommendations in this guide will help secure your organization against the turbulence ahead.