Automated hacking, deepfakes are going to be major cybersecurity threats in 2020

Artificial intelligence used to carry out automated, targeted hacking is set to be one of the major threats to look out for in 2020, according to a cybersecurity expert.

The tools and knowledge for developing malicious AI and machine learning codes are becoming more mainstream and there is a lot more data out there for hackers to gather and use, Etay Maor, chief security officer at cyberintelligence company IntSights, told CNBC.

“We will see the adoption of AI tools for targeted and automated attacks,” Maor said.

The idea of a computer program learning to attack things by itself and expanding its knowledge base to become more sophisticated is scary. But, it is a serious consideration given how the cyber-threat landscape has evolved in recent years and is seen as a major risk for the global economy.

In the past, defacing or taking down websites and stealing credit card information were considered major instances of cyberattacks. But, those attacks were costly because they required attackers to devote more time and resources to carry out. With AI, an attacker can carry out multiple and repeated attacks on a network by programming a few lines of code to do most of the work.

Deepfakes are a threat

Related to AI is the rise in the spread of disinformation and deepfakes, especially since 2020 is an election year in the  United States, according to Maor.

Deepfakes are images and videos created using computers and machine learning software to make them seem real, even though they are not. Experts predict that this technology could be used to cause confusion and propagate disinformation, especially in the context of global politics, and may become extremely hard to detect.

“These will be difficult to combat as attribution is becoming harder and harder and the technology, means, and infrastructure becomes more and more accessible for the attackers,” Maor said.

Other security experts agree. In an October blog post, Forrester Principal Analyst, Jeff Pollard, wrote that costs related to deepfake scams will exceed $250 million in 2020. Media reports suggest that some companies are already being tricked into wiring large amounts of money to scammers.

“Now that a precedent exists showing economic gains from AI-backed deepfake technology, expect more to follow,” Pollard wrote. “Expect the development of more deepfake-based attacks fabricating convincing audio and video at a fraction of the cost.”

Cybersecurity company Forcepoint predicted that cybercriminals could use deepfake technology to generate compromising photos and videos of individuals and threaten to release them if their ransom demands are not met.

“At the organizational level, deepfakes will also be used to impersonate high-level targets at organizations to scam employees by transferring funds into fraudulent accounts,” Alvin Rodrigues, senior director and security strategist for Asia Pacific at Forcepoint, told CNBC.

“In the political arena, we can expect deepfakes to be leveraged as a tool to discredit electoral candidates and push inaccurate falsehoods to voters via social media,” he added.

Related to deepfakes, cybersecurity firm Check Point said in October that a new cold war between Western and Eastern powers is taking place online due to a growing divergence in their technologies and intelligence.

“Cyber-attacks will increasingly be used as proxy conflicts between smaller countries, funded and enabled by large nations looking to consolidate and extend their spheres of influence,” the company said in a blog post. It pointed to the U.S. carrying out a secret cyber operation against Iran after the latter’s attacks on Saudi oil facilities.

Other threats

Beyond AI and deepfakes, there are a number of growing threats that security experts have predicted for 2020:

Supply chain and third-party attacks — IntSights’ Maor said that as large companies invest heavily in cybersecurity measures, attackers are likely to switch their focus on easier, smaller and less-funded targets: essentially those firms that supply the large organizations. He predicted that these types of attacks are likely to happen in areas such as health care, automotive and broadcasting. “This is a concern because there is only so much an enterprise can do to force security on its vendors,” he said.

5G will make it easier to steal data — Forcepoint’s Rodrigues told CNBC that wider adoption of the next generation of high-speed mobile internet , known as 5G, would allow cybercriminals to transfer large volumes of data from one server to another online at faster speeds. “With the roll-out of 5G continuing in 2020, we can expect to see an increase in the volume and speed of data theft,” he said.

Attacks on critical infrastructures will increase — Criminals attacking utilities and critical infrastructure will continue to grow next year, Check Point predicted in its blog post. “In many cases, critical power and water distribution infrastructure uses older technology that is vulnerable to remote exploitation because upgrading it risks service interruptions and downtime,” the firm wrote.

Geopolitics to drive cyber espionage and nation-state attacks — Cybersecurity company FireEye said in its 2020 prediction report  that geopolitical tensions are often a “significant driver of intrusions and disruptive attacks.” Nation-state activities are expected to continue developing and the firm said it has observed operations linked to Russia, China, Iran, and Venezuela to spread certain kinds of information. “While not limited to issues around elections, we often observe these activities to be particularly intense around elections,” the company said, pointing to various elections due in 2020 in places like Taiwan, South Korea, France, Poland, and the U.S.


AI-powered marketing needs interpretability – and collaboration

The business world is gearing up for an artificial intelligence (AI) revolution, as the budding technology is expected to grow into a $118.5bn industry by 2025.

Many organisations are already embracing AI’s predictive abilities to automate repetitive tasks. For example, AI allows systems to process increasingly more complex types of input data, like natural language and images. Handwriting recognition uses image recognition to eliminate boring data entry tasks. The Alexa assistant you have at home can understand the intent of your request from the soundwaves of your voice and answer appropriately – and for much cheaper than a real-life assistant.

While computers have obvious strengths, the ability to draw on gigabytes of data for example, humans have many unique capabilities which machines currently struggle with. The natural ability of humans to communicate and collaborate currently dominate that of machines, and this is particularly important in situations where humans and machines must work together, such as where a human has a legal duty to understand outcomes, e.g. law or medicine. Other knowledge work, where human decision making cannot be replaced, but may be augmented by machine insight, poses similar challenges for current AI systems. This inability to collaborate is holding back wider AI adoption and innovation.

Marketing and AI

Let’s consider this problem through the lens of marketing, a normally tech-savvy industry which, in a lot of ways, is being surprisingly slow to innovate with AI.

Automation is already being used very effectively for repetitive tasks such as ads targeting and bidding. The real-time matching of adverts to viewers is facilitated by machine intelligence at some of the most innovative companies in the world, dynamically predicting click through rates and optimising ad selections on the fly.

But when it comes to more strategic, creative decisions – such as what ad creatives the team should use – AI struggles to be as effective because it can’t easily explain it’s decisions.

To put it bluntly, AI does not seem to be a very good teammate.

The black box of AI

Normally, the better at predicting an algorithm is, the more unintelligible it’s workings are. This lack of interpretability is what we call the ‘black box’ of AI and it has deep implications for how marketers stand to benefit from the technology.

For example, imagine that you had an AI model which was trained to predict whether your next ad was going to appeal to the audience that you’d selected for it. This could be useful, say, to show to the client that the creative treatment is a winner in an objective way, or to test new creative elements quickly and cheaply. But if the model says your creative is going to underperform, but can’t explain why it’s making that judgement, how are you going to make the ad better?

Content creation is expensive and time-consuming, so creating 100 ad creatives in the hope that you will find the best-performing one is inefficient. The black-and-white results which machine learning algorithms tend to provide isn’t enough for marketers to glean any actionable insights.

What if AI was interpretable for marketers?

Data-driven systems such as AI can be seen as existing on a scale from descriptive – discussing the past –to predictive – a system that can understand the future – and finally prescriptive – understanding how to change the future.

An AI system which could explain its decisions and outline what the user could change to get a better result would be a prescriptive system and would be a huge step toward finding a common language between human and machine.

That said: it’s really hard! Current interpretability methods are more aimed at researchers than business users. So what can we do to make AI more collaborative?

Collaborative AI

For AI to be a part of creative marketing decision-making, measures need to be made to combine the analytical with the artistic. This means finding a common language between man and machine, so that users can actually action suggestions from the AI.

Google Has Developed a New 3D Object Recognition Process, Which Could Lead to Improved AR Experiences

As recently demonstrated by  Snapchat , AR systems are advancing, and facilitating new options for branding and advertising which utilize more immersive, engaging visual elements.

But one of the limitations of AR is 3D modeling, and the capacity for smartphone cameras to accurately scale object size in order to match them with virtual comparisons, and provide realistic depictions that can be layered over real-world scenes.

That’s where this new process from Google comes in – this week on the  Google Engineering Blog , the company has outlined its latest advance in 3D modeling, which could see a significant shift in AR rendering in the near future.

Google 3D modeling

As explained by Google:

Today, we are announcing the release of MediaPipe Objectron, a mobile real-time 3D object detection pipeline for everyday objects. This pipeline detects objects in 2D images, and estimates their poses and sizes through a machine learning (ML) model, trained on a newly created 3D dataset.”

The process improves the capacity to capture an object’s size, position and orientation in the world, which, as noted, could have significant impacts on the accuracy of AR applications, leading to more impressive, useful digital placement tools.

“Our novel approach, called AR Synthetic Data Generation, places virtual objects into scenes that have AR session data, which allows us to leverage camera poses, detected planar surfaces, and estimated lighting to generate placements that are physically probable and with lighting that matches the scene. This approach results in high-quality synthetic data with rendered objects that respect the scene geometry and fit seamlessly into real backgrounds.”

Google MediaPipe example

We’ve already seen examples of AR product placement in real-world environments, including various make-up try-on tools and IKEA’s AR furniture display app.

Those initial usages are impressive, but more advanced 3D modeling capacity like this will enable even smarter virtual placement, and better, more accurate tools. That could be major for eCommerce and virtual shopping, with more ways to see what objects look like in your world before you make a purchase, while there are also advanced potential opportunities for brand activations and engagement through improved AR tools.

Google is sharing its latest advances with the developer community, with a view to future product enhancements. And with reports also suggesting that Apple is also testing a  new, dedicated AR app , and potentially its own  AR glasses , we could be in for some major AR updates in the latter half of 2020.  



YouTube is reportedly planning to launch an in-app rival to viral video-sharing app TikTok before the end of 2020

youtube tiktok
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, left, and TikTok global head Alex Zhu. Noam Galai/Getty Images; John Phillips/Getty Images for TechCrunch

YouTube reportedly plans to launch a shortform video-sharing feature inside its mobile app by the end of 2020 in an attempt to make a dent in the surging popularity and impact of TikTok.

The feature is called “Shorts,” and will live within YouTube’s existing mobile app,  according to The Information . It seems the feature will mimic to concept of TikTok: a feed of super-short videos that act as an alternative to longer vlogs and clips that appear on YouTube.

With  nearly two billion downloads , TikTok has become the go-to launchpad for memes and internet culture since it was launched by Chinese-based company ByteDance  in September 2017 . When TikTok debuted in the US just under a year later, it became the next best thing for creators yearning for a replacement for Vine since Twitter shut it down in 2016.

But Shorts may be able to pose a real threat with its roots tied to YouTube, the most popular video-sharing platform in the world that’s been around for more than 15 years. Because Shorts will exist inside YouTube’s app, users will be able to harness the established platform’s extensive library of licensed music and soundtracks when making videos. It also means that YouTube won’t have to convince users to download another app onto their phones to use Shorts, and  creators who have built up millions of subscribers on their existing YouTube channels won’t have to convince their fanbase to migrate over to another app for more content.

US-based companies and startups have made several attempts at their own apps to take on TikTok, but none have been able to reach the level of popularity that TikTok has achieved and is continuing on which to build. The only similar platform to have found comparable success in the US is —  which ByteDance acquired in 2017 , then shut down a year later to merge into TikTok.

 Facebook released a TikTok competitor  in November 2018 named Lasso, but little has been heard from the app since its debut. Vine’s cofounder launched an app called Byte in early 2020, which  has seen some initial succes s in download numbers but has yet to birth any internet stars or viral memes. Triller, advertised as a music-discovery app,  is banking on partnerships  with major music labels to rival TikTok. Although lip-syncing app Dubsmash has been instrumental in launching some TikTok-famous dances —  notably, the “The Renegade”  — it has only around one-third of the US downloads of TikTok, according to Sensor Tower data  provided to TechCrunch in early 2020 .

Google, YouTube’s parent company, was rumored to be in talks to acquire a TikTok competitor called Firework, the  Wall Street Journal reported in October 2019 . It’s unclear where those discussions are at now, but they could have been dropped now that YouTube is planning to release Shorts sometime this year.



The Future of Video

Given the dominance of the mobile format, it’s no longer enough for brands to simply port over their TV campaigns to mobile – they must make ads that work vertically.

The reason is simple: people consume content very differently on mobile and this impacts how they experience and process the content.

At the forefront of this shift is verticality. In fact, some 83% of visitors to video-centric websites hold their smartphone in portrait mode1. This rise of verticality is acting as a catalyst for media companies including Airbnb, Wikipedia and Spotify to evolve their video strategies and push the envelope. The trend doesn’t stop with media – it’s impacting hardware too. Earlier this year, Samsung introduced a vertical TV to help fulfill the ever-increasing appetite for full screen vertical content and make it easier for people to watch vertical content on the big screen.

The Power of Stories

At Facebook, the Stories format is proving to be a game changing new medium for expression.

Although Stories launched less than five years ago, its growth has been explosive, with one billion Stories shared each day. Part of the appeal is that Stories helps to broaden people’s perspectives and keep them connected. In fact, 78% of people in APAC agree that Stories helps them to experience new things outside their everyday lives, while 69% said it makes them feel like part of a larger community.2

These lively 24-hour mini-narratives – which include Facebook Stories, Instagram Stories, Messenger Stories and WhatsApp Status – are also improving people’s relationships with brands. The unique visual vernaculars and interactive capabilities have differentiated Stories from being another one-dimensional format. Storytelling is now participatory, personalised and more interactive, better connecting people and brands.

Getting creative with mobile video

As consumer behaviour shifts in real-time, we’re constantly evolving to create formats that resonate with how people consume media and content.

Today, this means getting people to interact and become part of brands – and so we’ve launched a suite of interactive ads to help businesses better engage with audiences:

Polling Sticker Ads for Facebook and Instagram

Interactivity adds a new dimension to Stories. One way we’re doing this is through the polling sticker, which allows businesses to be more engaging and playful in order to build better connections. The results so far are promising, generating increased three-second video views for nine out of 10 beta campaigns.

Playable Ads

With Playables, a mini-version of a game is embedded in an ad, allowing players to try a game before downloading. While this is growing in popularity as a format, 33% of publishers using a mix of in-app ads and in-app purchases said playable ads are already their most successful format.

Augmented Reality Ads

This format allows advertisers to offer immersive experiences through which audiences can virtually visualise, interact with and try on products and experiences in a space. For brands, it is an opportunity to deeply engage with their audience, which could potentially lead to increased consideration and higher conversions.

Mobile is massively changing consumer behaviour and now it is up to advertisers to adapt, innovate and push the boundaries.



These are the 6 biggest digital trends to track as we head into 2020

A major shift is coming that will rock the tech world as we know it.

In 2019, the focus was on collecting data on user behavior. But in 2020, the attention will be on translating these statistics into actionable insights to form authentic and lasting connections with customers.

Even the most adamant Luddites are becoming amenable to the widely spreading “anti-the-way-it-used-to-be” attitude of consumers. We’ll see out-of-touch marketing strategies gradually become extinct as values, transparency, and personalized content become vital for company survival

“Like it or not, tech innovation is here to stay and it is growing and changing by the day. As consumer demands become increasingly influential on digital advertising, it is crucial to stay ahead of these insights and trends, in order to not be left behind.”

eMarketer has put together a list of Five Digital Trends to Track as We Head Into 2020 across Digital Marketing, Media, and Commerce.

These six main trends will include the following insights:


Voice technology

Voice technology will move beyond smart speakers, and close in on visual search capabilities.



Google will remain the dominant search platform, but some consumers may shift to other platforms.


Traditional TV services

Traditional TV services will lose customers to subscription video-on-demand services like Netflix and Hulu, causing advertisers to rethink their strategies.


Direct-to-consumer brands

Direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands like Warby Parker and Glossier will maximize their online presence by introducing a traditional brick-and-mortar component.


Privacy concerns

Privacy concerns will cause news outlets and social platforms to steer away from data targeting practices that won’t be well received by their audiences. 


Facebook’s user base

Facebook’s user base will continue to dwindle and advertisers may finally follow suite.