The most destructive cybersecurity threats in 2021

With companies relying more on technology, such as web applications, third-party solutions, and cloud computing than ever before, corporate cybersecurity has had to become the backbone of modern businesses. In the presence of remote work environments where IoT security has never been more vulnerable, companies need to effectively and quickly adapt to the rapidly evolving methods and techniques that hackers are beginning to employ.

Business vulnerabilities like a weak human firewall could lead to an increased susceptibility to a variety of cybersecurity attacks, such as ransomware and DDOS attacks. But despite all of these challenges, comprehensive and reliable cybersecurity solutions are very much achievable when approached correctly. In order to protect yourself against contemporary security threats, however, one must first understand the threats and risks they are trying to prevent and mitigate.

Below is a breakdown of five of the corporate cybersecurity threats every business should be aware of and prepared for to both maximize the security of their assets, as well as the ROI of their cybersecurity solutions.

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Ransomware

According to Security Magazine, since 2019, the number of targeted ransomware attacks has increased by 62 percent worldwide and 158 percent in North America. The shift towards ransomware illustrates a new wave of cybercriminals, one that uses an increasingly sophisticated methodology to infiltrate company systems, accounts, and networks. In this same report, Security Magazine highlights the variations in malware and techniques that support the modern ransomware approach. Since 2018, Ryuk has emerged as one of the most dominant and effective variants of ransomware. In fact, in September of 2020 alone, Ryuk was logged -- on average -- once every 8 seconds, with 109.9 million cases detected across the globe. Combined with cryptojacking, increased IoT malware, and industry-specific ransomware attacks, it isn’t hard to imagine why ransomware has become one of the most pressing cybersecurity threats of 2021.

Social Engineering

Social engineering is one of the most common and effective cybersecurity incidents on the planet. In 2020, of the nearly 13,000 cybersecurity incidents that were observed, 22 percent included social attacks. These are attacks that focus on exploiting the end-user(s) of a given organization or business. Of the different types of social engineering, phishing is by far the most popular. By posing as a legitimate user, cybercriminals aim to extract sensitive information and login credentials from employees and stakeholders using fraudulent emails, direct messages, SMS messages, etc.

Social engineering is one of the ways in which threat actors can access confidential assets without having to brute-force their way through some of the more sophisticated defense mechanisms enterprises utilize, such as digital firewalls and antivirus software. Social engineering exploits the IoT security and business vulnerabilities of organizations by using stolen login credentials, for example, to access secure resources under the guise of a legitimate user. Attacks that leverage the information extracted from social engineering are often very difficult to detect for this exact reason, also making them some of the most successful. Technology giant Cisco illustrates, in one of its most recent reports, that about 95 percent of corporate cybersecurity breaches involving enterprise networks are caused by successful spear phishing attacks.

DDoS Attack

The goal of a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) is to overwhelm a targeted website, server, or online service with a high volume of requests, rendering it inoperable. These attacks typically are more threatening than they are devastating, however. Sometimes a group of cybercriminals will launch a DDoS attack and follow it up with a threat of an even greater attack. Threats such as these are often executed in order to extort their victims for money.

In the first half of 2020, the frequency of DDoS attacks rose by 15 percent year-over-year, resulting in 4.83 million individual attacks. According to that same report, 2020 also marked the beginning of a new wave of DDoS methodology. Attacks have been streamlined so that they are quicker, larger, and more complex, using multiple complex vectors to carry them out. The scope of DDoS attacks is limited to online services that are accessed by client-initiated server requests. Previously, this would limit the extent of these attacks. But with more industries entering the online space, retail, education, and healthcare, to name a few, more companies are exposed to DDoS attacks than ever before. And not being sufficiently prepared could make one’s business particularly vulnerable -- and attractive -- to cybercriminals.

Mitigating Modern Cybersecurity Threats

As beneficial as it is to understand the threats one is facing, understanding threats and mitigating threats are two completely different goals. While threat identification is one of the first steps to building a cybersecurity plan, successful asset protection requires a wide range of updated, well-integrated security mechanisms. A ransomware attack, for example, can be loaded onto a network both remotely and in person. Therefore, physical security is just as integral to network and IoT security. To effectively minimize one’s business vulnerabilities, an IT security leader must adopt a 360-degree cybersecurity perspective. This means prioritizing prevention and detection, but also incident response and disaster recovery. To do so, requires expertise, industry-knowledge, creative thinkers, talented employees, and often a third-party security consultant.

Image Credit: Lightspring / Shutterstock

Anas Chbib is one of the most respected leaders in the security industry, known for his unmatched business ethics, inspirational entrepreneurial spirit, and fierce desire to offer organizations worldwide highly-secured environments in order to ensure business continuity and better service. Anas is currently the Founder and CEO of AGT, a highly respected, international cybersecurity firm.

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