The past few months have been nothing short of an eye-opener for organizations. A barrage of data breaches, the ongoing pandemic and the paradigm shift towards the work-from-home model has been nothing short of a revelation for many. As normal lives take a hit, data breaches have become the talk of the town, taking precedence over everything.
As 2020 comes to an end, the year 2021 is expected to bring about some changes in the cybersecurity outlook, which will shape the future. The current year has seen a shortage of skilled IT personnel, which, coupled with the increase in cyberattacks present an unending challenge, waiting to be overcome.
What’s even more mind-boggling is that one person individually has hacked into 34 million user records, spanning over 17 companies and put them up for sale on the Dark Web.
With this thought in mind, let’s take a quick look into the top 5 cybersecurity trends which will shape the onset of 2021.
Remote working and the rising insider threats
Work from home has become the new age mantra for companies, businesses and organizations alike. As the shift from the office to the home structure took a sudden turn, so did the use of work tools and technology. This offered cybercriminals an excellent opportunity to exploit the current work situation, through a series of phishing, ransomware, vishing attempts, amongst others.
Organizations have failed miserably to support remote working, exposing their sensitive information in the process. This has led to approximately 25% of organizations to end up paying unexpected costs related to cyber breaches and malware infractions. Of course, all of the aforementioned events raise a pertinent question:
Will remote working continue to be a trend in 2021?
The pandemic is not abating anytime soon; remote working might have brought its own set of challenges. What’s more, the continued dependence on remote employees, without the supporting security tools to back it up, will only lead to a proliferation in blackhat hackers looking to exploit insider threats. That said, a positive point out of these breaches is that a lot of companies have understood their weaknesses and are devising ways to strengthen their security structure before the onset of the new year.
The inevitable demise of VPNs
In order to facilitate and sustain work from home, many organizations began to look at VPNs as a silver lining to the pandemic cloud. Despite these criteria, VPNs were quickly regarded with distaste. The reasons were manifold. They brought latency, promoted scalability issues, and gave widespread access of resources to the wider employee base.
Given these security shortcomings, hackers started exploiting these gaps, and unpatched VPNs with ransomware. Even though VPNs were looked at as being the ‘perfect’ remote working solution, it started slipping through the cracks and became a vulnerable asset, worthy of an easy attack.
An apt example is the Twitter attack, which took place in early July’20. Hackers managed to use stolen employee VPN details, to unscrupulously access high-profile users’ accounts with an aim to promote Bitcoin scams.
Fortunately, the buck does stop here for VPNs. 34% of IT security teams globally have initiated the implementation of the zero-trust security model, which is a level up over VPNs, especially in terms of restricted access, higher security, and introduction of a suitable means to overcome the traditional challenges of VPNs in a remote working environment. Gartner’s prediction that more than 80% of organisations would have shifted from VPNs to a Zero Trust Model, has only been supplemented by the inadequacy of VPNs being exposed during the pandemic
Healthcare in the line of fire
Earlier this year, all of Düsseldorf University Hospital’s systems and electronic appliances were riddled with ransomware, which inadvertently cost a patient her life. Even though it has been 3 years since the ‘Wannacry ransomware’ episode, there is no denying the fact that the healthcare sector is becoming one of the most targeted sectors for breaches.
Healthcare systems have multiple endpoints and end access devices, which makes it extremely difficult for people to keep a track of who’s coming and who’s staying put. Don’t you think this makes the situation ripe for a breach?
Here’s why the healthcare industry is every hacker’s favourite sector:
- Lack of awareness
- Poor security measures
- Easy availability of patients’ personal and medical records
As third-party vendors, doctors and other personnel access the systems from a series of endpoints, it is important to look at possible solutions to restrict access to the limited few. This, in turn, will prevent subsequent leakages of patient records, which can further be used to access personal bank details.
It goes without saying that the healthcare industry is going to take a lot of time before the concept of Zero Trust is implemented. Despite the imminent need to restrict access to personal systems, there is a lot to be covered, to ensure patients’ records are kept safe and secure. Failure to ensure the safety of such records is going to keep paving the way for volatile data breaches, year on year.
Digital Transformation to the rescue
The pandemic might have caused numerous deaths globally; however, organizations continue to look for the silver lining. The silver lining is in the form of digital transformation, which has been an ongoing endeavour since the last decade or so. If remote working had not become a thing of necessity, chances are digital transformation would still have been another unchecked box on the to-do list for such organizations.
With the ongoing efforts in 2020, 5G networks have become a reality, and the use of ML and AI-driven analytics has led to the increased use of the cloud, in order to achieve growth and secure digital platforms. Through such innovation, organizations have been able to deliver on their objectives, drive scalability and make their products ready to market effectively.
Remote working will outlast the pandemic; this will be succeeded by technological innovations, cost savings, efficient working, and achieving an overall edge in the day to day working. The year 2021 and many more to come, will see the rise of powerful organizations, which will be equipped with stronger security structures and updated technology, aimed at making success a constant feature in customer and employee dealings.
Use of artificial intelligence as a weapon
Hyper Automation is the process of process automation, through the use of technological innovations. Such innovations can be Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), amongst other options. While organizations are using these methods to drive automation, cost savings and efficiency, hackers on the other hand are using these technologies to counter-attack the progress made by organizations.
Remote working might be the latest fad, but remote hacking has been around for a while now. Using successful hacking patterns as a starting point, attackers are able to drive hacking procedures and evolve their methods of cyber-attacks, thereby learning as they go.
Through such tricks, cybercriminals are able to locate vulnerable chinks in the networks, and further get into systems, without leaving traces of their existence. Once the hack is complete, it is often too late for organizations to be able to trace the source of the attack. All such malicious activities are being driven through the use of automation, AI and ML, which are making us wonder if they are more of a boon or a bane.
The year 2021 might mark the end of the pandemic, but it is also bringing a lot of expectations from organizations to up their game. With security becoming a paramount feature, it is time to understand the weak links and eliminate them to reduce the problems related to cyber-attacks.