As one year comes to a close and another one looms on the horizon, it’s that time when industries release predictions for the coming year. The identity theft and personal data security industries are no different, only these predictions are based on the slew of advancements—both in new consumer technology and in hacker capabilities—that have come to pass in the year behind us.

Data security is a game of cat and mouse. For every new security tool or innovation that helps protect the public, cybercriminals and scammers quickly develop a workaround or new method to continue their activities. Information security and stronger anti-malware protocols will be important in the coming year, perhaps more now than ever before thanks to more advanced techniques of hacking and intentional hijacking. Recently discovered events such as the finding that cloud traffic for Apple, Google, Facebook, and a few other major tech companies was intentionally rerouted through a Russian telecom provider briefly, will continue to drive both technology and regulations. Preventing such activities, whether the work of individuals, government agencies, or businesses, will hopefully lead to stronger protocols in the near future.

Other tech innovations will also play a major role in the coming year. Previous years’ predictions that the internet of things (IoT) will become more pervasive in households across the country have been proven true. The use of this technology will continue to grow in the year ahead as IoT devices become more and more commonplace. We predict to see a shift in consumer trust in relation to the safety of these devices, namely that more people and manufacturers will place greater emphasis on privacy and security rather than “blind” trust in the product.

Another “buzz worthy” innovation, AI, also known as artificial intelligence or machine learning, is already the next great frontier in product technology, but it may also be the key to putting a stop to hacking. With the ability to recognize threats and take evasive action at speeds in the nanoseconds, machine learning may hold the key to uncovering viruses and suspicious activity before their operators can use them for harm.

In the coming months, we also expect some shifts in how people interact with social media.  A little over a decade ago, about 5 percent of American internet users had social media accounts, and today that number is hovering closer to 70 percent. It’s been around for so long that it’s an everyday accessory, but it’s also an open door to scams, spoofing, and account takeover. Today’s social media user is far more savvy when it comes to understanding the threat, but scammers’ techniques have evolved to stay one step ahead. There’s no reason to think that will change in 2018, although more privacy settings and a more aware user base can reduce the threat.

Events in 2017 will play an important role in what we can expect for identity theft in 2018. For example, one of the harshest cybersecurity realities to hit in 2017 were the number of Social Security numbers and complete consumer records that were compromised. The number exceeded 170 million, largely thanks to events like the Equifax data breach. We anticipate seeing a significant increase in the various types of identity theft and fraud due to these exposed records, but at the same time, this may be the catalyst for finally taking action that will render the SSNs useless for identity theft.

Of course, predictions are just an educated guess based on previous events and information. It remains to be seen how 2018 will be impacted by identity theft, cybercrime, hacking, and data breaches. One thing we can be sure of though is that the ITRC will be here, working to fight back against the latest techniques to commit identity theft and scams.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.