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Cybersecurity has never been as important as it is today. With more people than ever before accessing the internet for work or pleasure, the number of targets for cybercriminals continues to increase daily, as does the number of cyberattacks. In addition, factors such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have further increased the cybersecurity challenges faced by individuals and corporations. This post will be placing the top emerging cybersecurity trends to monitor in 2021 under the microscope and take a closer look at what can be done to remain secure in the face of these threats.
Remote Working and Cybersecurity
The recent explosion in the number of people who work remotely has drastically increased the attack surface for cybercriminals, and they are taking full advantage of the opportunity. In many cases, the switch from on-site to remote working was a hastily executed affair and hackers have also been using this to their advantage. An estimated 70% of the global workforce were working from home at the height of the pandemic, and while this has likely reduced a bit, many people are still working from home and will continue to do so well into the future.
As such, companies need to minimize their exposure to cybercriminals. This can be done by employing technologies such as virtual private networks (VPNs) to secure remote connections and educating employees on the importance of safe computing practices. IT policies should also be redesigned to focus on enabling safe remote working and balancing ease of access with security and IT asset disposition.
Misuse and Abuse of Credentials
Hackers are getting better and better at forging credentials to gain access to cloud-based servers and the files they store. By exploiting weaknesses in operating systems, hackers can gain access to confidential information, which can then be used to extort money from organizations. The recent SolarWinds hack is a prime example of this. This attack demonstrated that no one is immune from credential abuse and some of the victims include U.S. government agencies and companies like IBM and Microsoft.
Insider Threats Are on the Rise
Insider risks have also become a more serious threat to businesses in recent times. Technically speaking, insiders can be regarded as one of the biggest threats to any business because of the amount of sensitive data that they can potentially access. It is clear that every business should do what it can to reduce this risk by implementing data access controls such as allowing employees access to data on a strictly need-to-know basis and ensuring that secure data destruction is performed when necessary.
This form of cyberattack can be crippling and businesses all over the world are being targeted on an increasingly regular level. Despite what many people think, ransomware attacks are aimed at businesses both big and small. Cybercriminals are not discerning when it comes to their targets and every business is vulnerable. Recent successful ransomware attacks have seen financially crippling ransom demands being levied for the release of data, and in many cases, this data was not usable after the ransom had been paid. Having secure data backups and adequate virus and malware protection are critical first-line defense strategies that every business should implement.
The value of cybersecurity companies has increased tremendously during 2020 and 2021. Several companies have broken through the $1 billion valuation ceiling recently in a trend that is likely to continue into the future. These extraordinarily high valuations are largely due to the increased demand for cybersecurity solutions in the face of the increased level of cybercrime, and as many as 14 companies have managed to reach valuations of $1 billion or more during the first quarter of 2021.
Threat Convergence and Attacks on Critical Infrastructure
One of the most concerning emerging cybersecurity trends is the increased number of attacks on critical infrastructure. These attacks include national power grids, hospitals, and fire departments. It seems that the purpose of critical infrastructure attacks is to cause as much disruption as possible, and if that is indeed the goal, the cybercriminals are succeeding. Public infrastructure is often based on archaic IT systems that are not particularly resistant to attacks, which means that attacks on public infrastructure are a very real threat that must be dealt with as soon as possible.
Our lives are more digital today than ever before. While this has the potential to make our daily lives much better, it also creates more and more opportunities for cybercriminals to attack and gain access to information. It is important that awareness of the increased cyberthreat faced by all of us is created and that people adopt responsible and secure practices when using IT devices. By doing this, amongst other things, the growing cybersecurity threat can be adequately addressed.