Security firm predicts hackers will increasingly use AI to help evade detection in 2019

Hackers will increasingly turn to artificial intelligence to help them evade detection as they carry out their online criminal activities, according to a cybersecurity firm's 2019 forecast.

McAfee Labs's 2019 "Threats Predictions Report" released on Thursday says hackers will likely turn to A.I. to "increase their chances of success," pointing to "an entire underground economy" where hackers can access new services and products to help them fly under the radar.

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"We predict in 2019, due to the ease with which criminals can now outsource key components of their attacks, evasion techniques will become more agile due to the application of artificial intelligence," the report reads. "By adding technologies such as artificial intelligence, evasion techniques will be able to further circumvent protections."

The firm noted that in 2018, its researchers observed the emergence of new techniques including a new malware writer, known as "process doppelganging," that writes malicious code that appears as legitimate activity.

The firm also said it saw new threats such as cryptocurrency miners, which take over the resources of infected machines. 

McAfee predicted that next year, cybercriminals will also team up to create more powerful hacking tools.

"In 2019, we predict the underground will consolidate, creating fewer but stronger malware-as-a-service families that will actively work together. These increasingly powerful brands will drive more sophisticated cryptocurrency mining, rapid exploitation of new vulnerabilities, and increases in mobile malware and stolen credit cards and credentials," the report reads.

One technology category that is likely to face more attacks are smart home devices, the firm predicts.

"As tech fans continue to fill their homes with smart gadgets, from plugs to TVs, coffee makers to refrigerators, and motion sensors to lighting, the means of gaining entry to a home network are growing rapidly, especially given how poorly secured many IoT devices remain," the report says, referring to internet-connected devices.

"But the real key to the network door next year will be the voice-controlled digital assistant, a device created in part to manage all the IoT devices within a home. As sales increase — and an explosion in adoption over the holiday season looks likely — the attraction for cybercriminals to use assistants to jump to the really interesting devices on a network will only continue to grow," the firm predicted, saying the market is still "taking shape."

"For now, the voice assistant market is still taking shape, with many brands still looking to dominate the market, in more ways than one, and it is unclear whether one device will become ubiquitous."