5 cybersecurity trends in 2021 to learn from

As technology advances, so do the tools and tactics that cyberattackers use to exploit their victims. Here are some of the biggest trends to be aware of.

December 16, 2021

Data breaches have reached an all-time high in the age of remote work and a rapidly evolving threat landscape. All around the world, organizations across all industry sectors are doubling down on cybersecurity in the hope of staying a step ahead of increasingly advanced attacks.

In light of these worrying trends, business leaders must rethink their approach to information security. No longer can strategies afford to rely solely on reactive measures. Instead, they too must evolve to counter new and unknown threats by adopting proactive measures, including zero trust security and security by design.

Here are some of the biggest trends shaping today’s cybersecurity environment:

1. Risks to remote workers are increasing

All industry sectors saw a significant uptick in cyberattacks during the onset of the pandemic, as blurring lines between remote and office work created new risks. During the first year of the pandemic, 54% of IT leaders witnessed an increase in phishing, while 56% reported a rise of web browser-related infections.

Among the most targeted industries over the past two years have been healthcare, finance, and government, with attackers deliberately targeting remote workers in many cases. As more businesses look to allow remote work on a permanent basis, reliance on collaboration and communication platforms like Microsoft Teams or Slack continues to grow. The need to secure these channels has never been greater.

2. Phishing is considered the biggest threat to Finance

The finance sector has long been known for achieving a high level of cybersecurity maturity, but the recent and dramatic shift to remote work has not come without serious challenges. As such, financial services firms face constant pressure to continuously test their assumptions and improve their security postures.

While the technical and administrative security measures in the financial sector are typically best in class, the weakest link is almost invariably a human one. Thus, phishing is considered the biggest threat to the sector, with 51% of financial services firms placing it far beyond risks like technical vulnerabilities and unauthorized system access. 

3. Cybersecurity budgets lack funding

With the digital world now well-established as the fifth dimension of warfare, in addition to land, sea, air, and space, rival states are increasingly targeting digital information systems. Many attacks against government supply chains and critical infrastructure are being perpetrated by sophisticated state-sponsored attackers with practically unlimited funding at their disposal.

Unfortunately, the measures put in place to counter such attacks remain woefully inadequate, with 96% of government cybersecurity professionals claiming that they lack sufficient funding. While the regulatory landscape and government cybersecurity funding is improving, the sector still has a long way to go to bring its defences up to scratch. 

4. Law sector sees double-extortion ransomware growth

Law firms build their entire reputations on trust, integrity, and professionalism. Cyberattackers are well aware of this fact, which is why the legal sector has become a top target for double-extortion ransomware. With these attacks, data is exfiltrated before it is encrypted so attackers can threaten to release it in the public domain if the victim fails to pay a hefty ransom.

The rise of remote work and the huge popularity of online communication and collaboration tools have given ransomware syndicates many new opportunities to spread their malware via social engineering attacks. As such, even with perfectly configured backups in place, law firms are far from safe from the latest breeds of ransomware. Additional protection is therefore vital.

5. Security leaders have an abundance of third-party tools

In the face of constantly evolving customer demands, today’s corporations are incorporating more and more tools to adapt and scale. After all, they must accommodate a broader range of customer and employee-facing channels and touchpoints to accelerate sales and maximize productivity.

While adaptability is an essential trait for any modern corporation, the reality is that the supply chains have become ungovernable, large and complex. For example, 78% of security leaders claim to have 16 or more tools in their cybersecurity vendor portfolios. There eventually comes a point when security operations and a required headcount become too large and complex for their own good.

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