RSA 2016: Future of cyber-espionage

Security researchers laid out potential scenarios for the future of cyber-espionage on Wednesday at the RSA Conference in San Francisco. In a session titled "The Dark Web and Cyber-espionage," attendees were presented with a bleak outlook in which relatively simple attacks will increasingly be used by nation-state entities seeking to gain control of infrastructure and resources.

Based on emerging trends noticed by cyber-security firms in recent months, Kaspersky Labs principal security researcher Vincente Diaz predicted that "middle class malware" attacks would increasingly be used to achieve ambitious results similar to advanced Stuxnet-type nation-state attacks. Diaz expects to see "unlimited zero days" in this new dystopian reality. He projected that it will be difficult to tell highly advanced attacks from effective but primitive attacks.

Cyber treaties like the agreement signed by the US and China will take on a more urgent role as nations scramble to gain the resources they need through cyber-espionage, and cyber-theft of intellectual property.

"On a diplomatic level, there will be alliances to get control of resources," he said. Diaz said attacks by China will migrate to campaigns against other countries, because China will continue to need to gain data for essential national infrastructure projects from somewhere.

During the Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit 2016 in Tenerife, Spain last month, the firm published a report that noted that Chinese attacks against Russian targets increased by 300 percent following the cyber treaty between the US and China.