As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to lower the barrier to entry for cybercrooks and ushers in a new era of AI-powered cyberthreats, scams will become more sophisticated and difficult to distinguish from legitimate messages and sites, online protection provider McAfee said.
From realistic phishing emails, which even experts have trouble identifying, to deepfakes that could impact everything from election results to the future of children and beyond, it has never been more important for people to be educated about the threat landscape, Steve Grobman, chief technology officer at McAfee, said.
A look at the cyberthreats to watch out for in the New Year:
1. Power of deepfakes to disrupt 2024 elections
“Fake news” will take on a new meaning in 2024, as the US presidential election, Indian general election, and European Union parliamentary elections, task voters with filtering through misinformation amid a rise in deepfakes, such as AI-generated voice, video, and photo scams. Voters have learned to be skeptical of politicians when discrediting their opponents, however, claims backed by visual or audio evidence can be destructive to a politician’s reputation – even when these photos or videos are produced by AI, McAfee said.
2. AI scams will be the new, sneaky stars of social media
Heading into the New Year, AI will help cybercriminals manipulate social media and shape public opinion like never before. Powerful AI tools will help bad actors fabricate photos, videos, and audio, generating social media goldmines. Consumers should brace for celebrity and influencer names and images to be used by cybercrooks to endorse scams, and local online marketplaces, the cybersecurity software giant said.
3. Cyberbullying among kids will soar
One of the most troubling trends is deepfake technology-driven cyberbullying. Young adults can now use this advanced and remotely accessible tool to create exceptionally realistic fake content. Beyond spreading rumors, cyberbullies can manipulate images available in public domain and repost fabricated and explicit versions of those images. The escalating intensity of these false images and words can pose significant and lasting harm to children and their families, impacting their privacy, identity, and well-being.
4. Caring consumers will see more charity fraud
Scammers often a potential target’s exploit deepest emotions, from excitement to empathy, fear, and grief. A particularly heartless method of doing this is through charity fraud. Whether this takes the form of a criminal setting up a fake charity site, or a falsified page to trick well-meaning contributors into thinking they are supporting legitimate causes, cybercrooks are pulling out all the stops to make these fake funding pages seem real. McAfee sees the prevalence of these scams – particularly those related to highly visible conflicts and humanitarian crises – only increasing in the New Year.
5. AI will drive up new strains of malware, voice, visual cloning
While AI can do wonderful things like write love poems, help answer homework questions, and create art with a few prompts, it can also quickly code, posing a significant threat. In the hands of cybercriminals, it is a powerful tool for creating advanced malware and malicious websites at an alarming pace. It also makes the creation and dissemination of convincing phishing emails and QR code scams, faster and easier. This extends to the creation of deepfake video, photo, and audio content aimed at deceiving unsuspecting targets and scamming them out of money. The rise of QR code scams, also known as quishing, is an additional concern. Scammers use AI to generate malicious QR codes that, when scanned, lead to phishing websites or trigger malware downloads. As the barrier to entry for these threats lowers, these scams will spread to all platforms with an increased focus on mobile devices, McAfee said.
6. Olympic-sized scams in an Olympic year
Cybercrooks excel at understanding the moments that matter most to people. From hot movie premieres to key shopping seasons, they adapt their scam playbook to capitalize on the biggest moments of the year. In 2024, the global excitement around the Olympic Games in France will become a breeding ground for scams. Scammers will exploit consumer enthusiasm around the event, targeting fans that are eager to buy tickets, book travel, and participate in giveaways. This presents a golden opportunity to trick people into compromising their personal information and payment details.
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