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Cyber security in 2021: four predictions for how the threat landscape will develop

Despite the clear and present danger that the COVID-19 pandemic presents, most organizations are aware that cyber threats are a top long term issue that needs to be addressed. In this article Avesta Hojjati looks at four cyber threat areas that will develop in 2021.

Prediction: social engineered attacks will get more complex

According to Verizon’s Data Breach Investigations Report for 2020, social engineering is a top attack vector for hackers, and I expect threat actors to leverage current events to unprecedented levels using new and increasingly sophisticated approaches. Examples for early 2021 include:

  • COVID-19: Free COVID-19 tests will be leveraged heavily by threat actors in the New Year.  Scammers will utilize social engineering to dupe users into providing a mailing address, phone number and credit card number with a promise to verify their information and qualify for a free COVID-19 testing offer.
  • More COVID:  The offer of fake, ‘government-approved’ cutting edge technologies to fight COVID and monitor those in proximity will trick users into downloading malicious apps on their smart devices that can be leveraged for nefarious activities by threat actors.

Prediction: the ‘New Normal’ will be under attack

I predict that individuals and businesses alike will adjust to a new normal sometime in 2021. This new normal will result in an increase of travel, a reduction in unemployment, and a transition for workers to return to the office, leading to threat actors’ attacks on the following:

  • Back to the office: as workers return to the office, there will be a steady crescendo of applications offered by threat actors with the promise of increased productivity tools to ease the transition to the office. Expect new attack vectors to emerge not only for social engineering, but also attacks targeting common home devices that are used at home for workers splitting time working at home and the office that can be used to compromise an individual and allow for lateral movement into a business. Workers splitting time between the home and the office will only exasperate this transition period, causing confusion and an increase in security risk for business.

Prediction: 2021 will bring increased focus on automation and efficiency solutions in the security market

  • As organizations work to keep the lights on and scrutinize the bottom line, there will be a resulting push for efficiency in security technologies.
  • Security teams will be asked to do more with even fewer resources. 2021 will bring an emphasis on technologies that allow organizations to do more with less, and automation will play a significant role in terms of security innovation in the New Year. According to a 2020 SANS Automation and Integration Survey, 12 percent of respondents had no security automation in 2019. In 2020, that dropped to 5 percent. I predict that the level of automation in 2021 will increase exponentially.
  • A consolidation of security vendors will take place in 2021 as businesses look to reduce the number of vendors within their environments. Trusted vendors with leading global technology and local resources where their customers live will be valued, as will be their emphasis on automation of security tasks.
  • As security investments focus on immediate value, Quantum Computing will continue to move forward. We will see the effect of Moore’s law on Quantum Computing. As Quantum Computing allows for tasks to be more efficient, organizations will prioritize its continued development. Improvements and efficiency are recession-resistant.

Prediction: staying safe online

Identity and consumer accountability of their permissions and controls over their data will lead to a new interest in how to stay safe online and with connected devices. Concerns over contact tracing and other government invasions of personal privacy will lead to a new desire by the public for ways to identify organizations with which they connect online and for better assurances of the security of the connected devices in their everyday lives, including connected cars, homes, buildings, websites, emails, etc.

The author

Avesta Hojjati, Head of R&D at DigiCert.



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