Emerging Cybersecurity Threats To Watch Out For
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic inadvertently caused a 238% increase in cyberattacks in 2020. Jürgen Stock, Interpol’s Secretary General said that: “Cybercriminals are developing and boosting their attacks at an alarming pace, exploiting the fear and uncertainty caused by the unstable social and economic situation created by COVID-19.”
As the world continues to adapt to this unprecedented situation, improved cybersecurity measures have become an absolute requirement for businesses and individuals.
Here, we explore five of the most threatening cyberattack trends to look out for in 2021.
Cloud Data Breaches
Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, more and more businesses are shifting to cloud computing. For all the many advantages the cloud offers, it also raises myriad concerns about the privacy and security of the data stored there. After conducting thorough research, analysts noticed that misconfigurations were prevalent in some 93% of cloud storage services they investigated. These oversights leave cloud servers open to account hijacking, data loss, security breaches, and denial of service. Researchers are warning that in the coming year, cyberattacks on cloud servers “will likely increase in velocity and scale.” Stricter security protocols and testing features will need to become common practice to protect cloud-based data.
Statista.com has reported that the number of “smart” devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) will reach 75 billion by 2025. Having greater interconnectivity between our laptops, phones, webcams, household appliances, cars, and a host of other devices, certainly simplifies and streamlines data processes. The downside is that one breach in the IoT ecosystem can leave consumers and businesses vulnerable to greater security risks, allowing passwords, credit card information, and other sensitive data to fall more easily into the wrong hands. In recent years, research reports predict that cyberattacks on IoT devices have surged by 300% and will only continue to rise in the coming year.
Reports have shown an alarming rise of ransomware and phishing attacks throughout 2020, with more and more malware demanding payment in order to restore businesses’ databases or for individual’s to re-gain access to their computer systems. Over 120 million ransomware attacks were recorded in the first half of 2020, with some 80 million happening in the US alone. This surge correlates to the prevalence of workforces moving to a remote environments in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As most businesses were not prepared for this scenario, robust cybersecurity measures were not in place or implemented, leading to a rise in cyberattacks. With the pandemic set to dictate work conditions at least until an effective vaccine is distributed, malicious ransomware will remain a pressing threat. It’s estimated that ransomware cybercrime will top $20 billion in damages in 2021.
2020 was a big year for cryptocurrencies. Since the market crash in March 2020, Bitcoin went on to treble in value, making it one of the strongest performing assets of the year. Backing from FinTech giants like Square Inc. and PayPal, plus the looming launch of Facebook’s Libra, means 2021 is set to be an even bigger year for crypto. Unfortunately, a host of cybersecurity threats are also arising with the ascension of crypto as a more reliable payment solution. One such threat is cryptojacking, where hackers piggyback on third-party computers to “mine” cryptocurrencies on their behalf. Crypto mining drains immense amounts of computer processing power, causes serious performance issues, and is especially costly to businesses when their systems go offline.
While deepfakes have been around for a while, 2020 has seen a significant improvement in the quality and realism of this technology. Deepfakes use machine learning and AI to manipulate existing footage, voiceovers, and photos of persons, portraying them doing and saying things they never did. As these doctored materials continue to become more indistinguishable from reality, there’s an increased risk of cybersecurity threats where deepfakes are used to commit fraud through the creation of synthetic identities and spread disinformation through seemingly reliable sources.