14 Jan 2021
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Top security threats for 2021

By Contributor

Article by Wontok head of technology Mick Esber.

2020 was a growth year in terms of organised cybercrime attacks and state actor attacks. Cyber-criminals looked to exploit any vulnerability to generate income, and COVID-19 was no exception. 

2020 saw a significant proportion of attempted compromises related to COVID-19. Whether it was linking to bogus products, targeting people using their devices differently due to the pandemic, new remote working practises, or new businesses moving to a full digital footprint.

Additionally, the pandemic created opportunities for adversaries to exploit public fear through the use of COVID-19 themed social engineering. Members of the public were losing money or credentials to COVID scammers every day. With the availability of commodity malware through ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS), this has also contributed to a sharp increase in the activity from a wider group of criminal actors.

In 2021, we see several themes developing.

Remote workers as the focus of cybercriminals

People working from home, often without enterprise-grade security, will be an increasing target for cyber-criminals. This can affect the organisations they work for if remote workers connect to company networks, send emails, and access data in the cloud. 

The rollout of vaccines is anticipated to be another key target for cyber-scams. Interpol has warned that criminal organisations plan to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains, targeting people with fake websites and fake cures.

Beware of the ‘wares’

There will be an increase in threats from all the ‘wares’ in 2021, including malware, ransomware, spyware, adware and scareware. 

Ransomware, estimated to have cost $20 billion globally in 2020, will become even more creative and damaging to motivate payment. For example, a recent scam email threatened people that their webcams had been hacked to record ‘compromising’ images of them, requiring a Bitcoin payment to destroy the (non-existent) images.

Financial services will be targeted

As seen by the fake Zoom invite that forced Sydney hedge fund Levitas to close up shop, financial services and banks will be targeted by cyber-criminals. Financial services organisations will need to take a risk-based approach and ensure compartmentalisation of systems, especially relating to financial and payment systems.

Legacy security will be vulnerable

Legacy security services such as VPNs will be vulnerable targets for cyber-breaches. Organisations will need to harden up services and review existing security-related arrangements, ensuring services are compliant with the latest regulations and standards such as NIST and ISO27001.

Service providers under attack

Hackers will increasingly target and exploit vulnerabilities in service providers. Service agreements and the obligations of service providers to prevent and report breaches should be reviewed.

Cloud will be vulnerable 

Cloud, including container misconfigurations, will become one of the top causes of data breaches. While cloud infrastructure tends to be very secure, customers are responsible for implementing cybersecurity features. Organisations should follow best practices to ensure all cloud services are secured, and all container configurations are reviewed and locked down before going live.

Identity theft will grow

The push towards total digital reliance means a greater risk of data exposure, including negative consequences such as fraud and identity theft. Individuals should only store personal data they absolutely need to handle, and ensure all data is encrypted appropriately at rest and transit.

More attacks on IoT

As IoT devices mushroom, capturing data and remotely controlling infrastructure, they set up a perfect storm of potential botnets. Many IoT devices lack robust security (or any security) and are very vulnerable to attack. 

Millions of new consumer electronic devices gifted this holiday season, from gaming consoles to smart TVs, could potentially be at risk. The Callstranger vulnerability is thought to affect billions of UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) devices.

Cybersecurity must remain top of the agenda for all cybersecurity teams in 2021. Given the grim predictions for cybercrime in the next few years, no government, organisation or individual can afford to rest on their laurels.

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