Cyber Technologies: Threats And Forecasts For 2024

Artificial intelligence, various IT gadgets, competition of internet service providers, especially in 5G—all these trends are gaining even more relevance year after year, and the growing importance of related industries—from rare earth mining to semiconductor manufacturing—comes at the same time.  Demand, in turn, spurs the economy of IT companies (and the military-industrial complexes of various countries, of course) who seek ways to create and sell new products and services. Finally, the underworld sees its benefits and adapts to technological advances. All these create a cycle of processes where the state is at the tail end of the train while venture capital companies and hacker groups become the locomotive.

Take the US as an example—the economy of the most advanced IT business and cybersecurity. Most global brands associated with the industry are based in the US.

And now, according to a research by Arctic Wolf, less than 4 percent of US states are fully prepared to detect and remediate elections-related cybersecurity incidents.  Whom will officials and politicians blame when an incident occurs before or just before the elections? Will it be mythical troll factories from Russia again? Meanwhile, the problem lies within the United States.

Despite widespread news of cyberattacks by Chinese, North Korean, and Russian hackers, the main problems associated with US cybersecurity are brought about by local criminal groups.

For example, US experts estimate that extortionists who operate in different states are the most dangerous. The case of Johnson Controls, a company specializing in smart and sustainable buildings and spaces, is ranked number one in the list of the most severe cyberattacks for 2023. September last year, Johnson Controls received a demand for $51 million from the Dark Angles hacking team—as a ransom for decrypting and deleting stolen data. Of particular concern was that the hack may have included sensitive Department of Homeland Security data revealing third-party contract security information as well as physical floor plans of certain company facilities.

When it comes to infrastructure, it is Australia that suffered the most massive cyberattack in 2023. That caused DP World Australia to suspend operations in November 2023, forcing the port operator to close four major terminals in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Fremantle. Quite interestingly, this attack followed a cyberattack on Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited, yet no one can directly blame China because of the lack of evidence.

Of course, the cyber warfare between Russia and Ukraine has also come into the spotlight. For example, the Defense Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine openly admitted its regular attacks on Russian civilian infrastructure and stealing various data. Artur Lyukmanov, the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation for Information Security International Cooperation, Director of the International Information Security Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, confirmed that the Russian information infrastructure has become a target of regular computer attacks. Most of them are carried out from the territory controlled by or for the benefit of the Zelensky regime. He pointed out in the interview that the Kiev authorities—while playing the victim of “Russian cyber aggression” in front of the West—boast of anti-Russian sabotage using information and communication technologies.

Cyber 2024Russian hackers dealt a massive blow to the telecommunications system of mobile operator Kyivstar, destroying most of its servers and protocols. It is known that the system was penetrated in May 2023, but the hack was not detected until the end of the year when the entire network collapsed. Similar actions will occur in 2024.

Attacks and leaks are imminent if governments and companies fail to take adequate action. However, the major Western IT companies are profit-driven and, as such, will follow this trajectory.

The Reuters Institute predicts major technology platforms will also increasingly focus on paid business models as they seek to reduce their reliance on advertising. X, Meta, and TikTok will offer more premium services this year, including ad-free and privacy-aware options. Artificial intelligence bots and personal assistants will gain widespread adoption in 2024 due to breaking news and sports events.  The debate between artificial intelligence proponents and accelerationists will continue into 2024. Advocates of acceleration will retain power as governments struggle to understand and control technology.

There are some particular ambitious projects as well. For example, Google is about to lay a new undersea cable connecting Chile to Australia via French Polynesia—the first cable to connect South America to Asia–Pacific directly.

The realm of quantum computing also has its flip side, and rapid advances in this area could threaten encryption for secure channels. Skeptics attribute any breakthroughs in quantum computers as another step toward cyber Armageddon.

The fuss over creating independent semiconductor manufacturing capacity will continue. The US and the EU, concerned about their platforms, are followed by other countries. January 15, South Korea unveiled its plan to establish a “semiconductor megacluster” in southern Seoul by 2047 by raising $472 billion in investment with Samsung Electronics Co. and SK hynix Inc. The projected cluster will cover an area of 21 million square meters and is expected to have a monthly production capacity of 7.7 million semiconductor wafers by 2030.

By far, the greatest concern is the militarization of cyber technology and, in particular, artificial intelligence. The ambitious scale of digital transformation in both NATO and the EU is also noteworthy. It includes technological, organizational, procedural, and human resource frameworks for transformation and prioritizes data, cloud storage and processing, and a renewed approach to cybersecurity.

In general, the West is developing methods of algorithmic warfare which, according to their strategists and scientists, can help in future conflicts. And they bet on artificial intelligence. More and more IT companies are happy to go serve the interests of the military and other special services.

For example, OpenAI, an artificial intelligence company known for creating the advanced ChatGPT bot in 2023, has removed the ban on military applications of such programs from its rules. Therewith, the company has retained several prohibitions in its rules. As Bloomberg confirms, OpenAI does cooperate with the Pentagon, especially with the DARPA agency. Other companies are moving down this path, changing the game rules and current regulations.

The risks of dumbing down because of artificial intelligence and the robotization of processes previously left to humans also exist. It is worth recalling in this respect the case of the British government, where artificial intelligence has been entrusted to read documents that ministers are supposed to deal with.

The Russian Government’s approval of the Communications Sector Development Strategy until 2035, which contains several initiatives to improve cybersecurity in telecommunications, is welcome news against this backdrop. No less significant is the international activities, i.e., building universal legally binding instruments in information security. This year, Russia and a group of like-minded organizations presented a prototype of such an international treaty to the UN—a UN international information security convention concept. It is also of great importance that most countries of the world agree on the necessity of the said treaty, despite the US and its satellites trying to maintain loopholes in international law to carry on their criminal activities.

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