5 Cyber Security Trends for 2019

Osman Husain

Mar 03 2019

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Our cyber security trends for last year spoke about how GDPR, IoT, VPNs, and Bitcoin would be major discussion points for 2018. All those proved to be true, but it’s important to state that this arena is never stagnant.

Hackers will keep finding new areas of vulnerabilities while security researchers and consultants try to stay a step ahead. With all that in tow, let’s look at what the major cybersecurity trends for 2019 might be.

1. Data regulation will now become increasingly pervasive

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was a hot topic in 2018 as companies scrambled to adapt to the new regulatory environment in the EU.

The terms of the GDPR were strict — any organization processing data of EU citizens was required to ensure that the data was gathered legally and after express consent from the end user. Furthermore, the companies collecting this data were also expected to protect it from misuse and exploitation — a failure to meet these conditions would result in heavy penalties.

In August 2018, Brazil implemented its own comprehensive data regulation laws while Canada is likely to follow suit very soon. Brazil’s laws — which are based on the EU framework — give companies until early 2020 to comply, which means there will be further changes this year in a rush to ensure they’re compliant with the law.

The California Consumer Privacy Act is also an indicator of where the US might skew towards data privacy. This piece of legislation was the first digital privacy law to be passed by a US state and it’s possible that others might tilt in this direction. If more states sign up, expect the federal government to start considering it seriously as a country-level mandate.

As most of the Western world moves towards rigid and robust frameworks for data privacy and security, it’s possible that there will be spillover effects in the emerging economies of Asia. This means companies will have to continue investing in their internal controls, data processing & handling, and cybersecurity capabilities.

2. Restrictions on VPN use might get firmer

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are used by about a quarter of all internet users so they’re clearly increasing in popularity. The problem, however, is that many countries and telecommunications providers are trying to curb their use.

It’s not hard to see why. VPNs are a popular choice when it comes to viewing content like the US library of Netflix (which has the largest roster). They provide an alternative to using communication apps like WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook Messenger.

In recent NAFTA negotiations, Canadian telecommunications provider Bell tried to push for legislation that would block VPNs, reportedly to get users to sign up for its own streaming service and not resort to US cable channels like HBO.

In 2018, a host of countries like Uganda and India tried to either restrict or block VPN use outright. While these measures didn’t work out the way the governments had planned, it’s clear that VPNs are coming under increasing scrutiny. Countries like China, Iran, the UAE, Turkey, and more already have several restrictions on their use and it’s fair to say that we’ll witness more clampdowns in 2019.

In our opinion, VPN trends for 2019 will reflect increasing popularity from a consumer standpoint but more skepticism and disdain on the part of governments and large conglomerates.

3. Artificial Intelligence will be a hot topic

According to CNN, President Trump is expected to sign legislation that launches the American Artificial Intelligence Initiative very soon. The initiative features a “multi-pronged approach that is categorized into five key pillars: research and development, AI infrastructure, AI governance, workforce, and international engagement.”

This is the first time that the US administration has taken a proactive approach towards the development of AI technologies, and it’s expected to plough in billions of dollars in funding to encourage private sector innovation and growth in the field.

With the government taking a keen interest, it’s likely that the battle for AI talent and solutions will heat up. This could have an impact on personal privacy and personal security too, but we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.

4. China and the US will battle for dominance

After the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver late last year — following an extradition request from US authorities — the political atmosphere between China and the US has heated up, to put it mildly.

The US accuses Huawei — which manufactures sophisticated telecommunications equipment among other things – of being in violation of sanctions against Iran and has demanded that the arrested executive stand trial. The Chinese government has taken great offence to this accusation and maintains that the charges are politically motivated.

While these events play out in the political arena, it’s likely that both countries will use online espionage and hacking attempts to pilfer data and test each other’s cybersecurity readiness. In December, the US accused China of attempting to steal trade secrets from over 12 countries by operating a complex web of state-sponsored hackers.

Part of the allegations included claims that the hackers attacked industries like banking and finance, telecommunications, medical equipment, and government agencies.

Given all the bad blood between the two sides, we can say with confidence that this will continue into 2019.

5. Software vulnerabilities will continue to be exploited

Even the largest companies weren’t immune to data breaches in 2018.

Marriott said 500 million of its customers had their data compromised after a successful hacking attempt. Similar high-profile cases involved Facebook, Quora, T-Mobile, Cathay Pacific, Careem, Google+, and Cambridge Analytica.

2018 was definitely the year consumers started to really demand greater control over their online security. It can be argued that this trend actually started in 2017 following the Equifax hack, but the revelations of 2018 were unparalleled.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal — which resulted in developers exploiting vulnerabilities in Facebook to mine user data — was a watershed moment. It lead to congressional hearings about data storage practices by large tech companies, with even Mark Zuckerberg being forced to answer questions in front of lawmakers.

We expect further high-profile hacks for 2019 and increasing outrage from both consumers and the government alike.


So the cybersecurity trends for 2019 show a murkier landscape as companies try to protect their data and trade secrets while malicious hackers, sometimes backed by state entities, try to penetrate through the defense. Stay safe out there, things could get complicated.

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