Top 5 Cyber-Security Trends for 2021

Cyber-Security Trends

Continuing our series of blog posts on what to expect for the New Year, today we will tackle cyber-security and the main issues to be affronted by this sector of interest to our members.

In 2020, cyber-security faced a series of unique challenges posed primarily by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus, which left nary a country untouched, forced people to work from home or remotely, which required additional troubleshooting by IT departments looking to keep their company’s data, software and hardware protected from external attacks. Additionally, criminals saw this health crisis as an opportunity to hack into now more vulnerable systems or set up phishing scams using COVID-19 as a hook.

During this momentous year, the organizations most vulnerable to cyber attacks included those in the healthcare, IT & telecommunications, legal, human resource and recruitment, manufacturing and utility, and financial sectors. Healthcare providers, in particular, were the hardest hit by cyber attacks as criminals took advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to spread additional panic and use ransomware to steal confidential patient data or at least hold it hostage unless a fee is coughed up. Pun definitely intended.

As the virus continues to trouble the world, will anything change from 2020 for the cyber-security sector in this New Year or will these same issues continue to take precedence over all others?

Find below what the IGCA team believes will be the top 5 trends to be faced by our sector. If there are any we are missing, make sure to submit them as a comment. We’re sure our other members would love to hear your take on this issue.

Ransomware Remains Lord of the Cyber Criminal World

Ransomware is not going anywhere. If anything, criminals specializing in ransomeware will continue to make the most out of the chaos wrought on the world by COVID-19 to earn some extra money.

Following an explosion in the number of ransomware attacks in June 2020, analysts project that these will expand further, shifting from data encryption to data exfiltration or exporting (i.e. stealing) the data to another computer.

According to the Cyberthreats Report released by Acronis, an American data protection firm, “in 2020, more than 1,000 companies globally had their data leaked following a ransomware attack” and  “they expect this trend to accelerate during the next 12 months to surpass encryption as the primary attack tactic for these cybercriminals.”

Additionally, the report says, “Ransomware attackers will narrow their focus to find targets that deliver a bigger payoff,” since “compromising one network to steal data from several companies is more profitable than attacking each individual organization,” making cloud environments and managed service providers the “more valued targets.”

As expected, hospitals and other healthcare providers will be these criminals’ preferred targets considering both the human and financial pressure being exerted on this sector by the ongoing pandemic.

Protecting Data while Working from Home

With the virus still making its way through our communities, thousands, if not millions, of people will continue to work from home. Hence, companies will have as one of their top priorities to protect the data and computer systems used by employees working remotely from external attacks.

As quoted in a Threat Post article, Bitdefender researchers explain that “insufficiently secured personal devices and home routers, transfer of sensitive information over unsecured or unsanctioned channels (such as instant messaging apps, personal e-mail addresses and cloud-based document processors) will play a key role in data breaches and leaks.”

Hence, for example, Zero Trust Networks or Architecture, colloquially known as Zero Trust, will grow in importance.

In simple terms, as explained by Secret Double Octopus, a company designing passwordless authentication solutions, Zero Trust includes “security concepts and threat model that no longer assumes that actors, systems or services operating from within the security perimeter should be automatically trusted, and instead must verify anything and everything trying to connect to its systems before granting access.” 

Tools such as Identity and Access Management (IAM) will be used more frequently to prevent hackers and data breaches. In a few words, as laid out by James A. Martin and John K. Waters of CSO, IAM specifically defines and organizes “the roles and access privileges of individual network users and the circumstances in which users are granted (or denied) those privileges,” with users being either customers or employees.

Martin and Waters explain that IAM’s main goal is to create “one digital identity per individual” with that specific digital identity being “maintained, modified and monitored throughout each user’s access lifecycle.”

Per CSO, systems that can be used to strengthen IAM include “password-management tools, provisioning software, security-policy enforcement applications, reporting and monitoring apps and identity repositories.”

Increased Need for Cloud Security Posture Management (CSPM) & Cloud Security Information and Event Management (Cloud SIEM)

Cloud networks have grown in importance alongside remote work.

More and more companies have embraced this technology as a way of facilitating work and keeping all files and important data in a single storage unit.

Reliance on this technology, in combination with remote work, has made it paramount to put in place specific mechanisms by which to protect a company’s cloud and all the data stored in it.

Enter cloud security posture management, or CSPM, a tool that, in simple terms, monitors a company’s cloud environment looking for potential risks and vulnerabilities in terms of misconfigurations to software being used or missed compliance obligations, among others, and warns the company, allowing them to fix the malfunctions or oversights.

Gartner, a research and advisory company, said in its 2019 Innovation Insight for Cloud Security Posture Management report that demand for CSPM is growing quite rapidly and the company expects that, “through 2024, organizations implementing a CSPM offering and extending this into development will reduce cloud-related security incidents due to misconfiguration by 80%.”

Additionally, according to Nick Cavalancia, a Microsoft Cloud and Datacenter MVP, cloud SIEM, a tool designed to help companies “collect, store, and analyze security information from across their organization and alert IT admins/security teams to potential attacks,” will become more prevalent as it will make it easier to “monitor systems, applications, and workloads, whether physical or virtual, anywhere in your network, whether in your data center, in a private cloud, or across one or more public clouds.”

Hyperautomation is on the Rise

As technology evolves, so does a company’s need to embrace it and incorporate it more fully into all areas of its business. In other words, technology kicks into overdrive and takes over many, if not all, of a business’ tasks.

Hyperautomation, as explained by appviewX, is “a process in which businesses automate as many business and IT processes as possible using tools like AI, machine learning, robotic process automation, and other types of decision process and task automation tools.”

By embracing hyperautomation, ProcessMaker explains that “humans are freed from repetitive and low-value tasks to focus on ones that are of a higher-value to the organization,” therefore “[helping] organizations to provide superior customer experiences while reducing operational costs and boosting profitability.”

In 2021, analysts believe we will experience greater automation with companies moving away from manual or human labor and allowing technology to complete those tasks that can be handled by machines.

FinTech’s Investment in Cyber-Security Will Skyrocket!

FinTech has been one of the industries that has been hardest hit by data breaches and hackers during the past year.

This forced many companies to invest millions of dollars to boost their cyber-security and protect their data, software and hardware from unwanted intruders.

According to KPMG’s Pulse of Fintech, during the first half of 2020 alone, the sector’s investment had reached $870.8 million, an amount significantly larger than the $593.2 million recorded for all of 2019.

This trend will not dissipate in 2021 but is expected to continue its climb considering that cyber security, according to PwC, “will be one of the top risks facing financial institutions…due to the following forces: Use of third-party vendors; Rapidly evolving, sophisticated, and complex technologies; Cross-border data exchanges; Increased use of mobile technologies by customers, including the rapid growth of the Internet of Things, [and]; Heightened cross-border information security threats.”

Are there any other trends you can think of that maybe we have left out?

Submit them as a comment and let’s start a conversation!

If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to reach us at info@igca.org. We’d be happy to help.

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