Gartner’s decisive research reveals that the global information security market is estimated to reach a $170.4 billion valuation in 2022. Simultaneously, there is a consistent and sharp rise in the number of threatening breaches. And as of 2020, the average cost of one of these data breaches is approximately $3.86 million.
Such statistics make one realise that with significant industrial growth come greater challenges. With information technology rising as the backbone of development, organisations must recognise the growing cybersecurity threats.
What Can We Expect in 2021?
2020 has seen a bunch of essential changes in the information security sector. The Covid-19 pandemic has created a global and remote workforce heavily dependent on cloud-based platforms, internal servers and data networks. 2020 also witnessed the phased rollout of 5G, making connectivity easier, faster and more advanced than before. Keeping in mind such developments, 2021 may face the following cybersecurity challenges:
- Cybercriminals may actively poach upon employees working remotely.
- Cloud breaches may become rampant.
- 5G may improve connectivity but exposes networks to attacks.
- Companies face a shortage of human resources fully-equipped to mitigate cybersecurity threats.
- Artificial intelligence will come to the forefront as the source of solutions to cybersecurity threats. Concepts such as hyper-automation become important with AI being used to automate as many IT processes as possible.
- Organisational budgets to enhance cybersecurity and reduce threats will increase, including application monitoring, authentication and cloud data protection in its ambit.
The Mojor Threads to Cybersecurity
As technology becomes complex, so do the threats that it is susceptible to. Dangers to digital data, chinks in the supply chain, phishing and hacking are only the tip of the iceberg. In 2021, the primary cybersecurity challenges are as follows:
One of the most common cybersecurity threats, hacking is exploiting a private network or digital system to gain unauthorised information. The severity of its impact is also increasing as hacking puts company reputation at stake, exposes sensitive data and causes major legal trouble.
In 2020, Verizon conducted a study of 4000 data breaches and found that nearly 50% of them resulted from hacking. Interestingly, it has been found that users themselves have a significant role in making their systems vulnerable because of weak passwords and incomplete authentication processes.
Phishing is sending out malicious files and deceitful communication that seems to be from an authentic source, but in reality, is meant to enter the system and harm data. The most common files used for phishing look like script files, windows executables, compressed documents, batch files, java files, android executables and PDFs. As of January 17 2021, Google has registered 2,145,013 phishing sites, a 27% growth from the figures calculated 12 months ago.
3. Supply Chain Risks
As companies expand business operations, they have to involve more and more third-party vendors in their internal networks. This puts organisations at the risk of threats that enter the system via thin cybersecurity walls belonging to their vendors. The solution providers you are working with may or may not have the requisite layers of protection, making your network vulnerable. One of the biggest container shippers globally, Maersk Line had to halt operations in 76 ports because of an attack in their supply chain network that prevented them from taking new orders.
4. Man-in-the-Middle Attack
MiTM attack happens when an attacker includes themselves in a two-party transaction. When they successfully enter the traffic, they can interrupt channels of communication and steal data. The most common sources of such attacks are unsecured public Wi-Fi and malware. According to IBM’s X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2018, 35% of data exploitation resulted from Man-in-the-Middle Attacks.
5. Structured Query Language (SQL) Injection
SQL is a programming language for handling data and updating, requesting and deleting data from databases. A SQL Injection is a cybersecurity threat that occurs when the attacker injects harmful code into the system, causing it to divulge information which under normal circumstances it is not authorised to do. It is one of the most straightforward forms of attacks where a third-party has to enter malicious code in a poorly-protected website search box. In 2019, 42% of public-facing systems encountered SQL injections.
6. DNS Tunnelling
Domain Name System (DNS) is a naming system for any device or network connected to the internet. DNS Tunnelling is a cyberattack that encodes data of programs or protocols in DNS queries and responses. The common mistake made by organisations is not inspecting DNS traffic for malicious presence. And since DNS is a well-established protocol, hackers take advantage of this vulnerability and insert malware into the system that manages to bypass most firewalls.
How to Strengthen Your Systems?
The key to effectively tackling cybersecurity challenges lies in the interplay of technological advancement, education and awareness. The first step of the process is to admit that you are always at the risk of a cybersecurity threat. Irrespective of whether you’re an individual, a company with less than 500 employees or a multinational, a threat can come at any time. It puts personal data at risk and for companies, can cause permanent damage and even closure.
1. Raise Awareness in Teams
Cybersecurity challenges are not stagnant. Every day, there is a new threat, and employees must be sensitised to the issues. Cybersecurity experts must conduct regular workshops to train employees to identify suspicious content and follow safety protocols while dealing with digital data.
2. Invest in a Cybersecurity Expert/Team
This is even more important for small companies who feel that they aren’t as susceptible to cybersecurity threats as larger corporations. Institutions and organisations irrespective of scale must divert a significant portion of their resources to building a more robust tech team that is continuously monitoring and implementing newer cybersecurity solutions.
3. Download your Updates
One of the most common errors is to leave new updates as they are. System updates are vital for preventing cybersecurity threats and mustn’t be ignored. If you’re just a regular person who owns a laptop, make sure you update your BIOS and download all software updates. If you’re a company, think about opting for patch management software that looks into updating your systems.
4. Prevent Database Exposure
Cybersecurity threats love to poach on databases, and in most breaches, vast amounts of data have fallen prey to malicious actors. Some standard methods to prevent database exposure are keeping physical hardware safe, having a web application firewall, encrypting server data, taking regular backups, and limited access to servers.
Implement Strong Authentication
Not having enough authentication processes is a common source of cybersecurity threats. It is the main reason behind credential stuffing where hackers try to gain access by using login credentials. At least a 2-step verification process must be implemented to protect all devices. Different accounts must have different passwords instead of a common one being shared by multiple platforms.
Cybersecurity challenges are a reality that is assuming mammoth proportions. And, this is a threat that can affect anybody. Its effects range from siphoning off a small amount of money to entire organisations’ shut down because of a data breach, legal troubles arising from privacy violations and compliance guidelines. In 2021, it is up to individuals and companies to take charge of the situation and protect technology from being misused.
With the newer ideas and innovations coming to the forefront, the number of resources available for development sees exponential growth. To ensure the upward trajectory continues, more significant time, budget and thought must be invested to improve cybersecurity and public trust in digitisation.
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