Cybersecurity threats: What are the 5 most popular ones in 2021

Published January 18, 2021   |   

Throughout the course of this recent pandemic year, we have come to appreciate more and more the tech innovations that make our lives easier. From gadgets that keep you safe in the face of holiday-at-home mishaps to smart tech tools that prepare your home for winter, tech has become so deeply embedded in our personal and professional lives that it’s never coming out.

It is this same tech that allows more people to work remotely and has contributed to the neverending rise in cybersecurity threats. Reported instances of specific forms of digital attack have increased 15% percent in 2020 alone. As businesses and enterprises continue to expand into the digital sphere, they leave themselves increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks.

In this article, we will take a look at the top five most popular global cybersecurity threats to watch out for in 2021.

1. Cybercrime

Since the start of the pandemic, cybercriminals have exploited the vulnerabilities presented by lockdowns, viewing the situation as a ripe opportunity. With more people working online, many for the first time, cybercriminals have seized the occasion to ramp up ransomware attacks against hospitals, target remote workers to gain access to corporate systems, increase phishing and malware campaigns, and rely more heavily on extortion.

Along the way, hackers have developed ever more sophisticated techniques, including the establishment of false charities and distributing fraudulent loans to victims who are especially at risk during these turbulent times. Add Identity theft to the list because it is also on the rise.

These shifting cybercrime techniques will continue ad infinitum or at least until a magnetic pulse fries all our gadgets. Cybercrime is expected to cost the global economy $6 trillion by 2021, and cybersecurity experts will have their hands full trying to stay on top of cybercrime trends as they evolve.

2. Scams

With the level of online transactions on a seemingly endless upward trend, hackers are focused like lasers on prodding at the “secure” sites that carry all this spending. Favorite methods include planting malware and creating ads that present malicious links that will likely make you sorry that you clicked.

While individual shoppers should use the latest in defensive technology whilst online, clever hackers never stop improving their scamming abilities. Best practice hacking now features convincing yet false emails from private websites or global companies that may deceive even the more cybersecurity savvy among us.

And with a new generation of employees soon entering the digital workspace, companies will be more vulnerable because, unfortunately, new employees often come preloaded with reckless attitudes towards cybersecurity protocols. Expect the result to be more weak spots and points of entry as attackers employ sophisticated manipulation techniques that regularly con employees into sharing valuable company information.

3. Insider Threats

Disgruntled former employees, employees unaware of digital security protocols, one-time trading partners: these represent just a cross-section of potential risk factors for insider attacks. Malicious insider attacks represent a critical threat to an institution’s information assets, including payroll records, international transactions, financial records, and ID cards. Once an employee or partner has already been granted access to an organization’s secure systems and databases, it is difficult to detect any internal interference, allowing them to poach information to sell to bidders on the black market.

Even unintentional interference presents a growing concern for both global and small-scale businesses in 2021. The financial sector is particularly vulnerable. If employees with access to even the most securely-held private data inadvertently fall prey to a scam or manipulation, then precious data stores can be breached, causing damage that could take years to clean up.

4. Attacking The Digital Workspace

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, organizations have had to make the shift to digital workspaces, encompassing cloud storage services, collaborative online workspace apps, and tools for remote access. These unnaturally quick digital transformations have meant that many companies lacking in IT expertise have made the shift without ensuring high level cybersecurity for their new tools. Without properly researching – and with limited budgets – a number of organizations have chosen the most quick, convenient options, leaving wide security gaps for hackers to exploit.

Cloud storage is not always well-protected. Opportunistic cybercriminals in the year to come will continue to view cloud storage service and remote work apps as prime targets, using this surge in the use of remote work tools to their advantage.

Attackers will continue to use ransomware techniques on digital databases and cloud storage servers, likely leading to an increased rate of data breaches. By hijacking remote business tools and apps, hackers can deploy malware to bypass basic security protocols from even the most trusted cloud storage hosting companies, including Microsoft, Google, and Amazon.

5. Curated Attacks

Next year will see hackers continue to hone their focus as they target specific verticals. Healthcare systems will remain a primary target. Healthcare digital operations are essential yet often underfunded. Inundated with coronavirus-related problems, healthcare organizations will not have time to adjust their cybersecurity protocols and will remain high on the list as appealing targets for malicious hackers.

Research facilities and pharmaceutical companies will also face heightened risks, as hackers will attempt to steal information related to the process of developing coronavirus vaccines.

Additional industries under threat in 2021 will include health insurance, the financial sector, and carmakers, particularly those whose innovations in electric vehicles make them more attractive in terms of potential profit and prestige.

Planning Ahead

With the holidays wrapped up at the conclusion of this unusual year, it’s natural to turn to planning for the year ahead. And that means engaging with a smart assessment of the potential risks and data vulnerabilities in the networks you use. The goal is to be ready for the hackers before they get there.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we need to be prepared for all eventualities. Everything. Understanding the possible risks that lie ahead in the year to come is an essential step to taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself, your company, and your digital systems.