New Black Hat USA Research: Your Private Information Is Already Available to Criminals; U.S. Elections, Critical Infrastructure Also at Risk

Report unveils security risks associated with voting machines to be used in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, public wi-fi, social media, AI assistants, Android devices, and more

SAN FRANCISCO, July 01, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Some of the nation’s top cybersecurity professionals today issued a warning that consumer behaviors and devices – including the use of AI assistants, social media, public wi-fi, and more – are leaving identity and privacy in a state of critical risk. Professionals also warn U.S. elections and critical infrastructure compromises may also be impending.

These findings and more are explored in Black Hat USA’s 2019 research report, Consumers in the Crosshairs. Based on data taken from Black Hat’s fifth attendee survey, the report includes critical industry findings from more than 300 of the world’s top information security professionals. With so much buzz around security and privacy, this year’s respondents had much to say. Professionals weighed in on how security will affect the 2020 U.S. presidential election, ways in which consumers are putting themselves at risk via widely used apps and social media platforms, and the dire state of personal data protection.

“Don’t share anything in social media – with privacy controls set or otherwise – that you would not want to be made public,” wrote one survey respondent. “Think twice about posting information that identifies where you are or where you’ll be.”

2020 Presidential Election: Expect Compromises
The upcoming U.S. elections are bound to bring controversy, but one lingering thought will undoubtedly be at the top of voters’ minds as they submit their ballots – are voting machines safe? Will my ballot even matter if machines can be hacked to sway decisions? More than 60% of cybersecurity experts say it is likely that hacking of voting machines will affect the next U.S. election - the same percentage of professionals (63%) believe that Russian cyber initiatives will specifically have a significant impact on the U.S. presidential election in 2020.

Consumers: Your Data is Available to Criminals Right Now
As new breaches surface, consumers inevitably worry about the safety of their personal information and are seeking solutions to become secure, but security professionals are painting a grim picture of consumer data protection. 90% of security pros believe that no matter how careful individuals are, it’s likely that their data is available to criminals at this very moment. A mere 30% believe that it will be possible for consumers to protect their privacy and identities in the future. Consumer information is increasingly being spread through the use everything from clicking on attachments, repeatedly using the same password, the use of public wi-fi, AI assistants, Android devices, and more. The technology consumers use daily puts them at risk – for example, AI assistants such as Alexa and Siri were cited as high risk, and only 12% said using Windows-based computers was safe.

“To be quite frank, I am telling people that it has become very hard to really protect your personal information – it’s close to not being possible,” said another survey respondent.

All Social Media is a Bad Idea
While concern over online identity issues, such as passwords, is prevalent, security professionals are now shining a light on other features of social media that expose consumers and their personal information. Their concern over social media has reached the point where a majority 75% say that using any social network is a bad idea - 70% specifically say that posting anything to “public” on Facebook is a high-risk activity. Among popular social media platforms, Facebook was cited as high risk by 80% of respondents, Instagram was red-flagged by more than 70%, LinkedIn nearly 60%, SnapChat at 58%, Twitter with 53%, and 51% listed Pinterest.

Cracks in Defense
Top cybersecurity professionals are increasingly anticipating major cyber breaches in the future - the percentage of respondents who believe that a U.S. critical infrastructure breach will take place in the next two years has spiked nearly 10% since 2018, to 77%. As online attacks become more prevalent in both politics and war, professionals fear vulnerabilities in U.S. defenses could lead to significant danger. Only 21% believe that government and private industry are prepared to respond to an attack on U.S. critical infrastructure. Enterprise security teams have certainly jumped at the opportunity to provide solutions for defense, but security professionals aren’t confident these will mitigate risk as there are a number of other issues at hand – one being technology. The 2019 Black Hat Attendee Survey presented security pros with a list of 21 categories of cybersecurity technology and asked them to rate their effectiveness in protecting enterprise data - only seven product categories were rated as effective by more than half. Those surveyed are also citing a lack of staff and resources as a major problem. More than 90% believe that a shortage of well-trained and qualified security professionals is significantly affecting the safety and security of data, both personal and commercial.

“We have plenty of tools, but nowhere near the amount of staff we need to monitor and use them,” one respondent wrote. “We are totally overwhelmed by the amount of [tasks] we should be doing, but can’t because of a lack of resources.”

Additional Key Findings

  • Only 25% of security professionals believe that consumer identity protection services are effective; 31% ranked them as ineffective.
  • Just 32% say that credit monitoring services are effective; 22% said they are ineffective.
  • 65% of respondents believe they will have to respond to a major security breach in their own organization in the coming year, up from 59% in 2018; most do not believe they have the staffing or budget to defend adequately against current and emerging threats
  • Four in ten security professionals consider themselves burned out
  • 54% believe that the level of anxiety, depression, and addiction is higher among security pros than it is among the general U.S. population

Download the Full Research Report 
These findings from the esteemed Black Hat community raise alarms on a global scale, informing consumers that their everyday activities are not as secure as they think they are. To learn more about these findings and other reported intel, download a copy of Consumers in the Crosshairs, here:

Black Hat USA 2019: August 3-8, Las Vegas
With the revelations found in this report, Black Hat will bring together today’s most influential information security professionals and researchers at Black Hat USA 2019. The event will feature a robust educational program, unveiling critical vulnerabilities that affect widely used voting machines, cars, aircrafts, mobile devices, and more. The event will take place August 3-8 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. For more information and to save $300 on your briefings pass by July 12, please visit:

Connect with Black Hat (#BlackHat)


  • Black Hat Trainings 2019, Alexandria, VA, October 17-18
  • Black Hat Europe 2019, London, UK, December 2-5
  • Black Hat Asia 2020, Singapore, March 31 – April 3

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