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Executive Cyber Protection: 2021 Trends and Predictions

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Making predictions about the future is a tricky business. If you disagree, than check out some of the predictions for 2020 and let us know on how many of those lists did you find “COVID-19 global pandemic imminent”. However, undeterred by the great unknown, we present you with our executive cyber protection forecast for 2021.

But before we dive into the future, let’s take a minute to reflect on the past.

Because of the shift toward social distancing and remote work, cyber security became a top priority for businesses. Sadly, this prioritization is a reactive consequence, rather than the result of proactive efforts. Reportedly, COVID-19 is blamed for a 238% increase in cyber-attacks just in the FinTech industry, with 80 percent of companies globally increasing their security infrastructure.

The COVID-19 pandemic, effectively become a catalyst for an exponential rise in cyber security threats. CSO Online reports that 94 percent of malware gets delivered via email, with phishing attacks making up more than 80 percent of corporate security breaches.

In 2020 we also saw ransomware trends pick up, with hardly a week passing without news of attempts to extort money from big companies. To make matters even more tasteless, despite the pandemic these attacks a number of US hospitals.

It’s definitely been a difficult year or everyone, no matter the industry in which your company operates. So, let’s see what the future holds.

Focus on Remote Workers

Unsecured home networks and the use of personal devices for work– so called BYOD policies, made previously visible threats on corporate networks become invisible. Cybercriminals took advantage of this launching more sophisticated attackes such as phishing, vishing, and ransomware.

So far, 2020 failed to provide adequate support for remote work without putting important information at risk. This failure has, in turn, led more than 25 percent of companies having to pay and cover costs for security breaches.

Companies seriously need to rethink their approach in 2021, because cybercriminals will continue to exploit remote workers – as they are currently ideal entry points in an organizations IT systems

Targeting Network Appliances

Generally, throughout the recent years, we have seen a lot of improvement in terms of organizational security. Given this, we are likely going to see attacks concentrating on exploiting vulnerabilities in network appliances – like VPN gateways.

Actually, there have already been instances of such attacks. According to the FBI and the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency, hackers already gained access to certain networks owned by the government by combining VPN and Windows bugs. Reportedly, the attacks targeted federal and state, local and territorial government networks –as well as some non-government networks.

However, this should come as no surprise considering that more and companies rely on VPNs because of increased trends in remote work.

Cloud Security Monitoring

Again, another threat that goes hand-in-hand with remote work trends.

Because most employees work from their homes, companies have rushed to adopt cloud services. This in turn will require organizations utilizing these services to focus on upgrading their cloud security programs.

A study from the end of Q3 2020 indicated that, since 2018 misconfigured storage services in 93 percent of cloud departments accounted for more than 2,000 breaches encompassing approximately 30 billion records.

Organizations will be hard-pressed to concentrate on cloud-native solutions in order to detect and remediate misconfigurations.

executive cyber protection
EPWired executive cyber protection predictions

Even More Ransomware

Over the years, ransomware gangs have changed and greatly refined their tactics. Starting with random attacks over a large group of potential victims, they have turned to targeted attacks demanding greater and greater payouts.

Victims of ransomware now are carefully chosen, according to factors such as their financial status and reliance on data encryption. And no industry is immune – not even medical centers and hospitals.

In fact, ransomware gangs are more brazen than ever, with threats of publishing the stolen data if a company fails to meet their demands. This trend is likely to pick up pace, with ransom demands going up while gangs seek to maximize their profits.

Accelerated Digital Transformation

They say that every cloud has a silver lining and that there are two sides to every coin.

Undoubtedly, 2020 brought many challenges, exposed a lot of weaknesses – but there might be some positive consequences in there as well. Ironically, COVID-19 has in a sense forced companies to hurry their digital transformation efforts in order to comply with stay-at-home orders.

Yes, the digital transformation is a well-known and common buzzwords since the 2010.  Without the pandemic it would have likely just stayed on the companies’ to-do lists. However, 2020 sped-up 5G in order to keep remote workers connected. Companies expanded the use of AI and ML-powered analytics, as well as increased cloud adoption.

In general, studies show that the rates of new tech adoption are years ahead of where they were before the pandemic. And of course, remote work and the tech strides that happened in order to accommodate this concept will long outlast COVID-19.

The Take-Away from Executive Cyber Protection

The previous year showed us that cyber criminals are ready to take advantage of global events and to further refine their practices. In fact, according to the FBI, online attacks have quadrupled since the pandemic began.

Currently, almost 60 percent of the world’s population is online and that number is likely to grow. Also, a reported 84 percent of companies will continue to support remote work trends even after the stay-at-home orders are lifter.

Combining these trends with rapid tech development and adoption, we will almost certainly see increasing numbers of cyber threats and crimes in the next year. Ransomware attacks will continue to increase, along with cloud data breaches and attacks on endpoint devices.

But this should not deter companies from implementing new technologies or continuing remote work. With proper executive cyber protection and the right strategies and solutions in place, companies can continue their operations without exposing themselves to additional dangers.

As corporations plan and adopt their 2021 budgets, they need to make sure to accommodate for solutions that will help mitigate the most pressing risks.

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