Perhaps due to the upheaval from the COVID-19 pandemic, there were many cyberattacks in 2020. In fact, the U.S. Treasury Department suffered through several hack attempts near the end of the year. This showed that even the most prepared organizations can fall prey to cyberattacks. Analysts predict that the main cyber threats of 2021 will continue to exploit the confusion sowed by the pandemic.
Attacks Of 2020
One of the largest attacks during 2020 was the SolarWinds incident. Though at first it seemed like this was contained to the U.S. government, the hack actually affected numerous federal agencies as well as public institutions.
As many as 18,000 SolarWinds customers downloaded an alleged software upgrade that was actually a backdoor program for hackers to enter various systems. Federal investigators suspected Russian cybercriminals in the attack.
In November of 2020, cyber attackers were able to break through the security protocols of video game maker Capcom. When discovered, the company stated that no sensitive information was affected. However, upon later investigation, they discovered 350,000 pieces of sensitive data were taken. On top of this, they experienced a ransomware attack at the same time.
In January of 2020, Microsoft was the victim of an early year data breach. Here, the personally identifiable information (PII) of 250 million subscribers was exposed. These records spanned back to 2014. This was days after the U.S. government reported a serious vulnerability related to crypto.
These attacks are a tiny portion of the events that took place in 2020. When totaled, there were nearly five dozen major hacks and ransomware incidents across the globe that affected billions of personal and private records.
Cyber Risk Consequences
The main cyber threats of 2021 present many potential problems for your organization. One is the protection of your data, be it financial records or the PII of your customers. You could also suffer a serious loss of revenue as you attempt to recover information or, in the worst case, deal with a ransomware attack.
Then there are potential circumstances connected to insurance policies. Depending on your company's coverage, cyberattacks may not be one of the named perils that your company selected. If so, your company's recovery costs will be out of pocket. You could also face an increase in premiums should a cyberattack occur.
That's why you need to prepare for 2021 immediately.
What Are the Biggest Cyber Threats of 2021?
You need to determine what cybersecurity experts are predicting for the new year. If you know what to watch for, your organization won't be blindsided. The following are some of the biggest cybersecurity risks of 2021.
• Ransomware: Unprepared businesses will fall to ransomware attacks every 11 seconds.
• Phishing: Pandemic-related phishing campaigns will increase through the first half of the year.
• Cloud breaches: There will be more cloud breaches due to misconfiguration by clients.
• IoT risks: Threats will increase on smart devices and machines connected to the Internet of Things (IoT).
Furthermore, you need to understand the most common cybersecurity risks a company might be affected by. Phishing was mentioned above; however, not every attack comes from an outside resource.
For instance, the threat might be from someone working on the inside. It can also be due to data leakage that isn't detected by any monitoring system. Of course, it might even be related to general non-malicious negligence by an employee.
Yes, these are frightening scenarios. However, it's better to be aware of the main cyber threats of 2021 instead of putting your head in the sand.
Perform a Risk Management Audit on Your Infrastructure
All companies should perform periodic risk management audits on their technology infrastructure. This comprehensive review should pinpoint the issues and the ways to resolve them. For this to be as accurate and useful as possible, you and your audit team must go through every one of the five risk management steps.
First off, identify the risk. Consider the aforementioned main cyber threats of 2021 while going through this process.
Next, analyze the risk to your organization. This isn't just related to the hardware and software you currently run. It also includes internal and external circumstances, both human and technological, that can cause havoc within your organization.
Once the analysis is completed, you need to put together a list of alternatives to minimize the risk. For instance, instead of having all of your data stored on servers at your headquarters, you might want to move it to cloud farms.
Alternatives are also related to education. Through your analysis, you might discover the greatest risk is the lack of employee knowledge about cybersecurity. So, an alternative can be annual training.
When the list is compiled, the fourth step in risk management is to determine what alternatives work best and implement them. This will be followed by the last step—monitoring to see if the applied tasks helped lower the risks.
Move Your Data to the Cloud
The cloud environment is still one of the safest places on the internet to store your data. As mentioned above, attackers don't usually target the cloud operators themselves. Most risks come from data owners who aren't familiar with the environment.
Therefore, for critical and private information to remain safe, administrators must be properly trained. They need to know what protections should be placed on data so only certain individuals or groups can access it. To make the process easier, consider segregating some of the duties.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is another security option that can help lower the risk of cyberattacks on cloud data. This offers a second level of confidence that goes beyond the standard password. With MFA, a numeric code is sent to a user's smart device to ensure they are the ones who need to access the cloud. The process minimizes risk because someone needs to have the device in their possession to see the number.
Upgrade Your Systems
If you haven't upgraded your company's hardware and software in a while, the new year is the perfect time to take action. Older equipment and programs have protections from the point of installation or the last upgrade. Such hardware and software may not offer the protection needed to thwart the main cyber threats of 2021.
It's important to take action and minimize risks. If your company doesn't have the budget to update everything, then focus on the items that protect individuals and devices. Normally, this is your network equipment.
Firewalls and routers are only as good as their last upgrades. If they can't automatically update, then you could have a problem. Thus, someone from your team must be ready to check these daily. If possible, you need to find a way for these network devices to get updated automatically.
On top of network updates, you need to run checks on the security software installed on all your office computers. The best recommendation here is to centralize the way this is managed. In other words, purchase software that pushes updates out to the office computers.
Use Company-Owned Devices
Do you allow your employees to use their own computers to remotely access data? If so, that practice should end immediately. Due to the differences in virus protection, a cybercriminal can break into a personal device and access the company's digital files with little effort.
Prevent this by moving everyone to company-owned devices. This includes laptops as well as smartphones and tablets. Through this, you can control what is added to the device, including the proper security software. Just make sure users don't have the ability to become administrators on their machines as they would be able to manipulate settings.
Use a Private Network
When the pandemic hit in early 2020, many companies didn't have remote working policies. As a result, they needed to find quick methods for their employees to access work files. Unfortunately, some organizations didn't utilize virtual private networks to make this happen. In the end, cyberattacks were more frequent.
Don't allow the cyber risks of 2021 to cause havoc if your employees still work remotely.__ Apply a VPN for a secure tunnel into the company's network__. Not only will this hide the information from potential attackers, but it also allows you to implement MFA for an extra layer of protection.
Bring on Subject Matter Experts
Implementing new defenses against the latest cyberattacks can be a daunting task even for the largest IT teams. If you're a one-person operation, the process will take time away from solving other issues that can affect revenue and productivity. Should this be the case, don't struggle. Instead, bring on subject matter experts (SMEs) in cybersecurity.
These individuals don't need to be directly hired. Rather, they can be outsourced through software as a service (SaaS) or network as a service (NaaS) organizations. The benefit of these companies is that their employees are SMEs for a specific area. Thus, they've seen setups similar to yours, and they know what needs to be done.
Yet, they won't assume anything. The SMEs still conduct risk assessments and review existing products to determine the cybersecurity protocols required. They'll also work to find alternatives and solutions that fit your budget. As a result, you'll receive the maximum amount of protection.
That's not simply for the present. SaaS and NaaS groups also look forward. They'll be familiar with the cyber threats of 2021 and help grow your security profiles while your company increases in size and scope.
Preparing your company for the cyber risks of 2021 isn't an option—it's a necessity. Without the proper setup in your organization, you run an enormous risk that can affect your bottom line and the security of your customers' data. If you want to maintain your revenue stream, client base, and low insurance premiums, start implementing risk-reduction practices today.