Cisco: Malware and encrypted traffic will challenge federal agencies

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Hackers will continue to give U.S. government agencies headaches in the coming months thanks to an evolving malware market and their use of encryption to evade detection, Cisco declared in a new report.

“The expanding volume of encrypted web traffic, both legitimate and malicious, creates even more challenges and confusion for the public sector as it tries to identify and monitor potential threats,” the networking giant said in a report on government cybersecurity.

“The growing number and variety of malware types and families perpetuates chaos in the attack landscape by undermining government efforts to gain and hold ground on threats,” the report said.

Malware is evolving to the point that ransomware campaigns can be launched automatically, without human assistance, according to Cisco. Internet of Things botnets are also on the rise and carrying out advanced distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, researchers found.

Verizon’s annual cybersecurity report also found a rise in ransomware; 56 percent of 1,379 malware incidents the firm surveyed involved ransomware.

Agencies should use machine learning and artificial intelligence to keep pace with threats, Cisco said. The report also recommended a greater emphasis on cybersecurity at “the network edge, where a more proactive defense can be staged.”

The report also highlighted how, as evidenced by the prevalence of ransomware, data is a prized commodity in the hacking world. “[F]or some adversaries, the prize isn’t ransom, but the destruction of a government’s systems and data, especially related to public safety and utilities. We expect this activity to increase,” the report stated.

Well-resourced hackers have hit Cisco’s own equipment recently. Cisco said last week that hackers, some of them backed by a nation-state, had attacked the company’s switches in multiple countries.

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botnets, Cisco, encryption, government, malware, ransomware