In short, Gen V and Gen VI cyber attacks differ from previous cyber attack generations because these are multi-vector and polymorphic attacks. For example, the attack may start with your smart phone and end up shutting down your datacenter after going through your cloud. These attacks disguise themselves in a much better way. They will use different content each time or can disguise themselves with legitimate actions of apps (for example, an Ad content that can turn into malware).
This makes Gen V and Gen VI attacks much more sophisticated, causing more damage and are much harder to defend against.
That said, in order to better understand the idea cyber attack generations, we need to go back to the early days of the internet, and see how we define different generations of cyber threats. Since the 80’s, we’ve seen an evolution of cyber attacks which transformed the way we protect our information. This transformation is directly linked to the unique role the internet has taken in our lives. The first generation of attacks were focused on our personal computers. Computer viruses, which were mainly dealt with through anti-virus software, marked these versions of early attacks. The second generation of cyber threats were more sophisticated and struck during the 90s. Second generation cyber threats were focused on networks connected to the internet. These were handled by firewalls, which was also our very first product at Check Point, dating back 26 years ago.
As we entered the 2000s, and as the digital world adopted the mass use of applications, we entered the third generation of cyber threats, which were focused on exploiting vulnerabilities in these applications. Check Point tackled these with new a product called IPS – Intrusion Prevention system.
Starting in 2010, the world began to cope with zero-day threats, marking the advent of the fourth generation of cyber attacks. The fourth generation represented attacks that were based on highly evasive polymorphic content, bypassing traditional defenses, becoming attacks which were not known before, hence the name – zero-day. Check Point used behavioral analysis tools to tackle these specific types of threats.
In the past 2-3 years, we quickly entered the phase of fifth generation attacks. These attacks were large-scale attacks based on government sponsored technologies, which were leaked to the internet. As I said, these attacks were also multi-vectored attacks, meaning hackers attack all fronts all at once – network, cloud and mobile devices. These specific attack types were seen in the 2017 WannaCry and NotPetya attacks. Fifth generation attacks exploited the connected and device-driven world we live in today, since our data is dispersed on the many different platforms we all use.
Check Point provides solutions to cope with fifth generation attacks, also known as Gen V. While other companies mainly focus on detecting these attacks, we differ by providing threat prevention, which enables us to stop these new zero-day attacks before they actually afflict our customers. For perspective, our products are stopping 7000 such zero-day files per day! Although we’re witnessing Gen V attacks, 97% of the world is only protected from second and third generation attacks.
Now, regarding sixth generations attacks that are coming in the near future, we are already working hard to prevent these. Our approach is based on the same methodology described above: understanding where the digital world is taking us and providing the necessary protections. As we move into an era of far more connectivity – autonomous cars, millions of connected IoT (Internet of things) devices on all fronts (medical , smart cities and homes etc.), we will need to provide security mechanisms based on AI, which will enable us to control the security of these millions of devices through a consolidated security mechanism.
The bottom line is that the more connected we all become – the more vulnerable we all become. Our information, which is shared on all of these connected devices, will need higher levels of protection.