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Cybersecurity in the Time of Covid: Trends To Look Out for in 2021

The US Treasury is the latest victim on the long list of cyber-attacks that have taken place in this unprecedented, pandemic-ridden year. Hackers backed by “foreign governments” and armed with “world-class capabilities” have virtually taken over some of the world’s largest organizations, cybersecurity companies, and thousands of Apple devices. The damage can hardly be estimated in measurable parameters. This series of cyber-attacks not only highlights the vulnerability of enterprises and individuals but also provides a glimpse into the devastation they can leave in their wake.

The recurring incidences of major cyber threats call for intelligent, sensible and dynamic security standards. Now, is the best time to invest in forward-looking and evolving technology priorities. Gone are the days of relying on static security packages. The threats loom large as the adversary keeps updating and changing the game. The changing risks need to be assessed continuously and the gaps must constantly and continuously be identified.

The global cybersecurity landscape for enterprises needs even more attention in 2021. What are the key focus areas, considerations, and risks for the next year? Here is the list of cybersecurity trends of 2021 that call for your attention.

# COVID-19: The ultimate deal breaker in the global job market Thanks to an unprecedented pandemic, with an increased focus on remote working, cybersecurity threats have been gifted a fresh set of threat vectors. The choice of devices have, additionally, shifted dramatically. Hacking groups and cyber criminals have adopted their techniques to take advantage of an ever-expanding base of geographically diverse employees and devices.

‘Bring your own device’ (BYOD) was a savior in times of necessary flexibility but many companies have failed to provide necessary endpoint protection, VPNs, firewalls or properly configured remote desktop solutions. This absence of preparedness has cost many enterprises dearly. We’ve seen a generous uptick in phishing, ransomware, vishing, fake government updates, pseudo-realistic alerts and on and on. All of them eliciting more clicks.

If your organization is one of these remote-working dependent companies, then addressing your organization’s newly minted risk posture is of utmost priority. Rethinking organizational security cannot be ignored as companies strive to safeguard exposing sensitive data via their employees. PwC’s most recent survey reveals that 40% of the executive workforce are investing to accelerate digitization while a whopping 96% have expressed the need to modify their cybersecurity strategy for COVID-19. Further, the security of mobile devices promises to be one of the fastest-growing cybersecurity focuses in the next year with a potential of reaching $13 billion.

# Cybersecurity breaches in the healthcare sector may cost lives The healthcare industry is the true hero in a seemingly never-ending war with COVID-19. However, in the U.S. alone, healthcare facilities faced recurrent cyberattacks affecting 17.3 million people. An astounding 436 breaches were corroborated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Breach Portal. Despicably, in this time of great need, malicious actors choose to attack healthcare service providers because individual medical records are among the most lucrative on the Dark Web. Quite challenging to keep track of, medical records can fetch as much as $1,000. State-sponsored cyberattacks add a complex dimension to a rapidly intensifying cybersecurity “arms race”.

With few pharmaceutical companies delivering vaccines to the masses from now till mid-2021, cybersecurity experts warn that criminals could take this as a prime opportunity to initiate a damaging barrage of malware and phishing campaigns. Disrupting supply chains, sowing confusion, and spurring national competition — a concurrent and novel pandemic of cyber threats may be lurking in the corners.

Unfortunately, when cyberattacks target the healthcare industry, it can result in fatal consequences as many healthcare providers fail to implement adequate cybersecurity practices while under the gun to perform elsewhere or focus on their patients. Hospitals and healthcare institutions are facing an uphill battle to take into account their patients’ electronic well-being as well physical well-being with a dynamic security strategy, like the proactive cyber analysis done right here at Shadowscape.

# Insider cybersecurity threats With a remote and more mobile workforce, comes the risk of accidental breaching by an employee. Compromising admin credentials or clicking on random phishing mail is enough to set off a chain of damaging actions. At the same time, a rogue worker may find it beneficial to misuse the abundant data at his or her disposal without requisite supervision and policies/safeguards like Data Loss Prevention (DLP).

Even before COVID-19, the Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report 2020, revealed that insider threat issues account for more than 30% of the security incidents and breaches. Published in May 2020, the survey finding will most likely continue even in 2021 as remote working becomes a permanent feature in organizations across the world. Legacy VPN infrastructures did play a role in this COVID conundrum. Companies needed to switch to remote operations to comply with lockdown orders and legacy architectures like VPN came handy. Nonetheless, it also compromised user security as cybercriminals can exploit any unpatched VPN relatively simply with exploits such as ransomware. This is certainly an important liability which was compounded by the system’s issue with scalability, productivity, and latency.

Thankfully, there’s still hope as many global cybersecurity teams are implementing zero-trust cybersecurity models to remove the challenges of this conventional network approach. With the zero-trust model, users will have limited access to a small pool of permissions required to deliver their responsibility areas. Zero trust network security strategies will most likely accelerate in the coming year as companies realize the threats legacy architectures pose to their security frameworks.

For detailed insider threat strategies and information, check out our previous insider threat blog found here.

# Cloud jacking adds an ugly twist to cloud security Since its inception, security of cloud infrastructure has remained a constant concern with a lot of confusion. Cloud architecture is certainly an incredible and dynamic solution for many organizations, with the promise of matching catering to the pace of all digital businesses. But it also gives rise to some of the greatest challenges of cybersecurity. While organizations become increasingly decentralized and look for more fluid alternatives to static networks, the state of flux makes documenting vulnerabilities a real challenge.

A common misunderstanding about cloud infrastructure is that the security is incumbent upon the cloud provider. While that may be true about the infrastructure itself, the configuration of the users’ cloud environment and the permissions that are enabled are entirely up to the client subscriber. Through misconfigurations, cloud jacking or hijacking can be attempted even by a novice user who can employ an automated script to take absolute control of any cloud infrastructure. With minimal infection of an administrator’s computer, a credential-stealing malware can steal the data. The stolen data can be leveraged to perpetrate further attacks. These are potentially enticing targets for smart, bad actors as most admin systems offer a host of exploitable information.

# The three key areas of enterprise cybersecurity outlay in 2021 According to McKinsey, enterprise cybersecurity will see highest spending in three core areas in 2021. These include messaging security; next-generation evolved Identity and Access Management; and network security. McKinsey predicts secured automation, enhanced security for third parties, and endpoint and perimeter security. Large enterprises will invest in technology to deal with pandemic-era business situations, including guarding remote workers from the risks of heightened attacks.

# The most influential technologies of cybersecurity in 2021 Cloud security again receives major thrust from security perspective. Cloud Security Posture Management and Cloud Workload Protection Platform are predicted to be two highly influential technologies in the next three years. Passwordless authentication is another field that will demand attention from cybersecurity experts. These trends have been outlined in Gartner Impact Radar for Security Framework, released in October 2020. This report also predicts that Zero Trust Networking will impact and influence within the coming three years.

# Managed security services to be the game changer According to IDC, security services are going to be the next big thing in the forecast period of 2020–2024. It will account for nearly the half of security spending becoming the fastest-growing and largest segment, growing at a pace of 10.5% 5-year CAGR. Operated by third-party service providers with customer premise equipment, ‘managed security services’ are designed to deliver a single-tenant solution. It will lead the security spending market followed by consulting and integration services. Managed security services has the possibility of turning into the fastest-growing category with 13.6% 5-year CAGR.

The imminent threat of data exposure is a byproduct of increased adoption of newer technologies. The pandemic has pushed us towards embracing helpful yet invasive technologies in every part of our lives. Organizations have no better way to protect their workers and corporate identity than actively investing in protective and preemptive technology to avoid costly data breaches.

Experts believe that Intellectual Property is going to be currency and the golden ticket in the new decade. It makes financial sense to hack healthcare data and vaccine research rather than wasting time on passe credit card details.

Proactive cyber risk assessment is critical to inform and advise enterprises. ‘Knowledge is power’, an aphorism that still rings true. When it comes to evolved, high impact threat vectors, earliest knowledge and precautionary action can save businesses.


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