Top 10 cyber security threat predictions for 2021

2021 cyber security threat predictions

In recent times, we have become heavily reliant on digital technology that it is now an integral part of our daily life. 

Digital advancements have allowed for seamless adoption and integration of turnkey solutions to virtually every part of society. These Digital innovations are not only at the forefront of our economic, political, social, and cultural activities but critical to addressing a myriad of complex challenges we face. 

There’s no doubt that the digital age has made life much easier, convenient, and efficient; however, it also exposes us to a new type of risk – Cyber threats. 

As an ICT-dependent society, with a broad range of cyberspace activities, we are now faced with malicious acts that seek to steal our data, compromise this data, or cause severe disruptions to digital life.

While great efforts have been made to improve cybersecurity, we are still confronted with more sophisticated and targeted attacks against critical computer information systems, infrastructures, and networks.

In this post, we will discuss the top ten (10) Cybersecurity threat predictions for 2021.

1. Working from home cyber attacks

It is a year ever since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. As the pandemic unfolded, measures to curb the virus’s rapid spread and flatten the curve were announced. Public spaces were put off-limits, non-essential businesses closed up shop, entire cities were placed on lockdown, international travel suspended, and workers urged to work at home. 

Today hundreds of millions of workers have made the abrupt shift to working from home. The advent of remote work means that offices are now virtual, leading to heavy reliance on employees’ use of technology to communicate, collaborate, and function. While there’s no doubt that this enables multiple modes of working and seamless virtual collaborations, it also raises serious concerns about the security level in place against cyber attacks.

The loopholes that arise may either be due to errors or slips due to the speed with which companies have adapted to the remote work model or a situation where they had to cut corners due to budget constraints. Both instances present cyber attackers with an opportunity to target millions of unsuspecting workers using the web & internet tools for their work-related activities. 

To that end, organizations must take adequate steps to improve their remote working arrangements and ensure a safe & secure virtual workplace for all their employees.

2. Social engineering

In cybersecurity, social engineering refers to a wide range of tactics that attackers use to trick unsuspecting users of IT systems & applications into obtaining confidential information. 

Social engineering exploits human psychology instead of technical hacking methods typically used in gaining access to computer networks, systems, or infrastructure. Social attackers take advantage of certain human emotions like fear, greed, curiosity, urgency, or helpfulness to gain physical access to a secure building or area, transfer money, provide confidential information or download a file that installs malware on a company’s network.

This approach poses a major problem, especially now when the lives of millions of people have been interrupted by a health or financial crisis due to the pandemic. As these are unprecedented times, social engineering becomes an even more dangerous threat as it becomes easy for attackers to target unsuspecting victims, prey on their vulnerability, and trick them into clicking on an unsafe URL, opening a malicious email/attachment, or provide valuable data. 

3. Ransomware attacks

Ransomware is a form of malicious software or malware that restricts access to a user’s computer/mobile device or encrypts the data until the victim pays a ransom before getting access to their device or data. Cybercriminals use ransomware as one of the most common types of cyberattacks used to target both businesses & individuals, and an increase in ransomware attacks is predicted to be among the main threats in 2021. 

This technique’s frequent usage explains why the number of individuals and organizations suffering from ransomware attacks keeps on increasing. The number of victims of ransomware attacks is expected to only surge higher, especially with the increase in ransomware sophistication and as attackers refine & alter their tactics, techniques, and procedures to become more evasive. 

There are no restrictions on what cyber attackers can do when they compromise a network. If multiple computers are encrypted, it can lead to serious business interruptions and substantial financial losses. An organization’s entire IT business structure can be rendered unusable before and even after a ransom payment. 

All of this makes ransomware a constantly evolving threat, especially for small- and medium-sized businesses that qualify as high-value targets for lofty ransom demands. 

4. DDOS attacks (distributed denial of service)

Another malicious act that is a significant threat to companies is a distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attack. 

This cyber-attack is based on exploitable vulnerabilities in a master system, which the attacker uses to gain control over other vulnerable systems by introducing malware or bypassing authentication controls.

A distributed denial-of-service attack occurs when a perpetrator intentionally targets a system (a network resource, server, or website) and floods it with fake traffic. The perpetrator carries out this attack by using multiple compromised systems simultaneously. The fake traffic coming in all at once from these various sources overwhelms the target system, exhausts its resources (CPU & Memory) and network bandwidth, which then causes a denial or disruption of legitimate service requests.

Depending on the attacker’s intent – sabotage, boredom, extortion, etc. a DDOS attack can last for hours or days. This disruption of the target system’s normal operations can affect the business’ standing, consumer trust, cause substantial financial loss and reputational damage.

5. Website vulnerabilities

In the digital space, web-based applications are not exempt from specific threats that can compromise their security. 

Web application vulnerabilities refer to flaws or weaknesses in a web-based application that arises due to application design errors, lack of input validation & data sanitization, and server misconfiguration that can be exploited to compromise the application’s security. 

Web application attackers typically exploit the vulnerability in web-based applications to either gain unauthorized access, disrupt critical processing or manipulate source codes. 

There are several significant web security vulnerabilities such as SQL injections, Cross-site scripting (XSS), Broken authentication & session management, Insecure direct object references, Cross-site request forgery (CSRF), but to mention a few that require the implementation of the best practices in web security. 

6. Social media spoofing

Social media is now an integral part of billions of people’s daily lives, who log onto their favorite social media sites every day to connect with other people, share content, and keep up with current happenings. 

Unfortunately, some users still fail to heed warnings to secure their accounts with stronger passwords & avoid revealing overly personal details, which equals easy targets for fraudsters. 

The broadening reach of different social media platforms and increase in third-party app relationships provide cybercriminals with endless entry points to a large pool of potential victims and their data. 

Cybercriminals have been paying attention and see social media as a gateway to carry out many crimes. In addition to other standard methods such as fraudulent emails, texts & phone calls, cybercriminals are increasingly using social media platforms to exploit users and steal sensitive personal or business information. 

7. Covid-19 Phishing campaigns

Cybercriminals are always on the lookout for situations that they can capitalize on to exploit individuals. The recent outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has presented these malicious actors with an opportunity to act. Due to the health and resulting global economic crisis, there is a lot of fear and anxiety in people’s minds. Cyber attackers have been paying attention and are utilizing this in phishing campaigns to spread malicious software and steal data from victims. 

A phishing attack is a type of social engineering attack and one of the most popular cyberattacks. It occurs when an attacker disguising as a trustworthy contact, organization, or reputable person and sends out fake emails. The victim opens the mail and clicks on the malicious link or opens the mail’s attachment. They give the attacker access to steal sensitive information like credit card details or login credentials.  

8. IoT (Internet of Things) attacks

The Internet of Things (or IoT) encompasses a network of intelligent devices or physical objects embedded with sensors and software that allow them to connect to the internet. 

As technology becomes more relevant to our daily lives, the Internet of Things (IoT) allows for convenience and efficiency in how we do things. Not only does this save us valuable time, but money and other vital resources. 

However, as with everything digital, cybercriminals exploit the vulnerabilities or gap holes in the internet of things (IoT) devices and turn them into powerful tools for cyberattacks. 

This typically happens when people fail to secure their internet-connected digital devices. Unknown to them, cyberattackers can then infect a large number of these unsecured digital devices with malicious codes to form a botnet – and use them to target and disrupt the normal operations of large websites & servers or take them offline.

9. Fileless attacks

Fileless malware attack is also known as macro, non-malware, or zero-footprint attack. It is a type of malicious attack wherein a hacker uses legitimate applications installed in the user’s computers and is known or thought to be safe.

Fileless attack is a favorite for many cyber attackers as it will allow them to stay under the radar & remain undetected as long as possible. To that end, cybercriminals are more likely to leverage this technique in an attempt to evade detection while spreading ransomware and conducting other malicious acts.

10. Insider threats

Insider threat is a security risk to an organization that arises from current employees, former employees, business associates, contractors, etc., within the organization.

Insider threats can cause enormous damages as it comes from people within an organization, with first-hand knowledge concerning the organization’s security practices and access to sensitive files, IT, or network resources.

An Insider threat can either be a turn cloak – an insider who maliciously steals data or a pawn- that is an unintentional or unwilling participant in a data breach.

Insider threats are a severe concern to organizations of different types and sizes because they are already inside. This means that they either have access to valuable data or are familiar with the company’s critical systems and methods to protect them. Tackling this issue requires organizations to implement the right solutions and approach to detect activity that indicates a potential insider threat.

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