In 2019, most companies said: “for us, work from home is out of the question,” or “we are not interested to shift operations to the cloud.” Then everything went upside down.
The pandemic forced corporations towards remote work. For several companies, this was not in their hindsight and it became a do or die situation for them.
By April 2020, nearly half of the US workforce was shifted to work from home. As companies and employees are becoming comfortable with this, we should also expect forceful cyber-attacks in the upcoming year.
Work from home or anywhere is the new normal for doing business. However, with accessing cloud services, remote systems, and collaborative tools by employees, you cannot seek safety from VPN everywhere.
The rapid shift has brought a host of security challenges for organizations. Therefore, we think the following five trends will be the biggest cyber threats to compromise privacy in 2021.
Table of Contents
Evolving of Yesterday’s Threats
To kick-off, it is clear that cyber-threats like ransom ware, Trojans, phishing, and botnets will remain prominent. Such cyber-attacks are tailored and automated with personal information and mined from company social networks and websites. As automation trends increase, these cyber hazards will grow in number and frequency.
Current events may shape the mentioned threats too. We saw an increase in phishing emails during the lockdown that took benefit of victims unfamiliarity with remote applications.
As campaigns through social engineering and malware are industrialized, cyber-criminals are enabled to assess and fine-tune their cyber-attacks based upon the results they get.
Self-explanatory, fileless attacks are derived from ‘living off the land’ (LotL) attacks that exploit features and tools already present in the target’s environment. These attacks do not need file-based payloads, and typically don’t generate new files.
A normal fileless attack may start with an email attached to a malicious site. Tricks of social engineering on that website can release system tools like PowerShell that recover and execute additional payloads in system memory. Detection of malicious usage of system tools, as opposed to legitimate scripting and automation uses, is a massive challenge for conventional defenses.
Fileless attacks are not restricted to individual companies. We have seen cyber attackers targeting internet service providers, abusing their management tools and infrastructure to compromise their customers.
Remote and Cloud Service Attacks
The coronavirus pandemic forced organizations to adopt new cloud services, collaboration apps, and remote access tools. However, several companies lacked IT professionals with relevant and proper training to configure these solutions.
Companies lacked the time to screen available tools properly or to budget the work with proven sellers instead of seeking solutions from free alternatives of low quality.
Containers, server applications, and cloud storage aren’t well-protected always. They are perceived by cyber-criminals as major targets with a vast attack surface.
Compromising one service might expose organizations’ downstream scores. Misconfiguration always raises the cyber risk, exposing all services to attackers. Such scenarios will surely lead to data breaches.
Compromises on Business Processes
Cyber-criminals sometimes identify vulnerabilities in the process flow of business functions and not in the applications. Companies should see an increase in compromises in business processes, in which cybercriminals exploit systematic operational weaknesses.
Attacks on business processes require considerable knowledge of the operations and systems of victims. They often start with a compromised operating system on the target network. Through the network, cyber-criminals observe the companies’ processes and gradually recognize weak links.
These attacks on business processes are quite discrete, and affected companies might not detect them on-time. For instance, attackers can siphon funds through compromising an automated invoicing tool and transforming the bank account number, which is populated into every future invoice.
Cyber-criminals are able to find a lot about your network through social media, company websites, and by compromising systems on a particular network. Dual-use and pervasive tools like WMI and PowerShell allow cyber attackers to know more about the services and tools your company depends on without setting off red flags.
Loaded with knowledge of the mentioned tools and the fragileness present in each, they can make payloads. Through the payloads, they can bring down not just a network, but your specific network.
How to Approach 2021
As cyber-criminals are developing their attack strategies and technologies continuously, corporations must maneuver their approaches to data protection and cybersecurity. Anti-virus software (system-level) is not enough to counter modern cyber-threats. A file backup alone cannot safeguard you against digital disruption through malicious actors.
Businesses are under threat and need to protect their data, workloads, and applications across different domains. For protection, they require integrated solutions, which automate the vulnerability assessments, system monitoring, and endpoint protection needed to stop emerging cyber threats.
Let’s face it: The year 2020 has been the most challenging year for IT and cybersecurity professionals. Most have navigated the significant changes successfully; however, unless they begin preparation for the next wave of cyber threats, 2021 might be just as rocky.