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Top 3 Cybersecurity Challenges of 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic that affected the world throughout 2020 created a new playground for cybercriminals. With most students learning through online means and employees working from home, hackers were quick to discover vulnerabilities that they could benefit from. This caused a massive increase in cybersecurity threats.

Although we don’t have a clear picture of exactly what will happen in the cybersecurity space in 2021, there are strong indications that things aren’t getting any better. Here are some of the top cybersecurity threats to watch out for in 2021.

Social engineering

Social engineering attacks such as quid pro quo, phishing, and scareware succeed in breaching standard security practices by manipulating human psychology.

In 2020, social engineering attacks accounted for one-third of all the security breaches with most of them being phishing attacks. For example, in March 2020, phishing attacks increased by 667%. In July of the same year, cybercriminals launched a successful phishing attack on Twitter and made away with more than $100,000.

The situation is not any different in 2021. In fact, according to a report by Microsoft, there are at least 2000 social engineering attacks per day in the United States alone.

Even worse, criminal groups are gaining monetary success, which means that they are in a better position to improve their social engineering procedures and techniques. Therefore, we can expect a rise in attacks for the rest of 2021.

To protect themselves from social engineering attacks, businesses can implement zero standing privileges, where a user is only granted privileges for the task they are currently working on. This privilege only works for the time required to complete the task.

With zero privilege in place, hackers can still get access to vital credentials, but they cannot use the information to access sensitive data or internal systems.

Ransomware

Ransomware, a cyber attack that involves encrypting data and then demanding payment before releasing it, has quickly risen to become the most popular malware used in data breaches.

In 2020, malicious actors used malware to compromise COVID-19 data and demanded that the University of California pay $1.14 Million for the data to be released.  In Germany, hackers disabled patient care systems and demanded ransom. This particular incident led to the death of one patient.

On March 16, 2021, the FBI issued an alert on PYSA (Mespinoza) ransomware after attacks drastically increased. Most of these attacks were directed towards the education sector, especially seminaries, K-12, and higher education institutions.  The report indicated that the ransomware has already affected 12 states in the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

Another type of ransomware that is on the rise is human-operated ransomware.  This type of ransomware is controlled by skilled cybercriminals who spend considerable amounts of time identifying their targets and infiltrating their defenses. These criminals are now concentrating their efforts on lucrative targets that are likely to pay them off in millions of dollars.

Businesses are focusing more and more resources on keeping internal, as well as customer, data safe. The risk continues to rise as remote work becomes the norm in today’s employment landscape, and cyber criminals pinpoint those employees working from coffee shops and even their homes. Many businesses are putting mandatory security protocols in place to ensure any remote connection into their systems are secure. Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are a key solution in encrypting an internet connection and essentially cloaking that user from potential breaches. Other protocols include mandating strong passwords with regular password change intervals and the use of virtual desktops.

These types of ransomware attacks are becoming more powerful by the day and are expected to cause more damage in 2021 and beyond. 

DDoS attacks

The number of DDoS attacks has been rising steadily over the last several years. In the first half of 2020, over 4.8 million DDoS attacks were attempted. In 2021, we can only expect this number to rise. In fact, according to Storm Wall experts, DDoS attacks will increase by a minimum of 20% from last year.

One of the reasons why DDoS attacks are on the rise is the number of emerging cybercriminals as well as the increase in the importance of internet services that has been facilitated by the Coronavirus pandemic.

DDoS aggressiveness has also increased on the internet, therefore creating a favorable environment for more attacks. For instance, in the beginning of 2021, new and powerful tools that can be used to launch DDoS attacks were introduced to a wide range of online consumers.  Such powerful equipment coupled with 5G networks will lead to an increase in the power of DDoS attacks.

Even worse, criminals are now making use of artificial intelligence to launch DDoS attacks. However, Artificial intelligence can also be used to identify weak spots, and the technology required to do this is expensive.

Final word

Cyber threats like the ones we have discussed above can harm your business or even put you out of business. However, you don’t have to wait to repair the damage caused by such threats. Instead, you can take steps such as securing your data through the use of a reputable VPN and limiting who has access to your data. Remember, when it comes to cybersecurity, prevention is always better than cure.

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