If last year taught us something, it is that IT strategies and techniques should always remain flexible. Throughout the year 2020, the coronavirus pandemic created somewhat of a happy playground for hackers everywhere. A recent study by Opinion Matters stated that 90 percent of cybersecurity leadership and IT firms witnessed an increase in the number of cyberattacks in 2020. At the same time, 80 percent said that these cyber-attacks are now more sophisticated than ever.

Hackers and cybercriminals took advantage of the uncertainty and fear associated with the recent pandemic. A significant increase in social engineering attacks and pandemic-related phishing has been observed. Many businesses and organizations have strengthened their cybersecurity systems and implemented fast-tracked digitization measures. Still, several companies follow poor cybersecurity practices and have unprotected data, making them vulnerable to cyber theft or data loss.

Given the rise in cyberattacks, most companies are now hiring cybersecurity experts to protect sensitive information from cyberattacks. Several universities are offering advanced education programs to prepare individuals to meet the growing demand for cybersecurity experts. However, interested students with relevant educational backgrounds can opt for Masters in cybersecurity online or on-campus degree to build their career in this widely growing field.

In order to give you a clearer picture of the emerging cybersecurity threats, we’ve listed some challenges that users might face in 2021.

1. New Ransomware Attacks

Ransomeware is the most common cybersecurity threat to any business’s data security. In 2020, ransomware attacks were on the rise, costing businesses more than 4 million dollars on average. Today, companies are facing more and more extortion attacks, where hackers steal data, encrypting it. Afterward, these hackers blackmail and extort money in return for a decryption password. The overall cost of ransom ranges from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars paid in Bitcoins. Users can see instructions on how to pay the required amount to attain the decryption key.

While most companies rely on VPNs to counter ransomware attacks, such a strategy is proving to be inadequate in 2021. ZTNA(zero-trust network access) is emerging as a better, more secure option to counter ransomware attacks. Perhaps, by 2023, most businesses will opt for ZTNA over VPNs. However, one may adopt some key steps to prevent ransomware attacks. These include keeping your operating system up to date, ensuring a backup of your files, installing antivirus software, etc.

2. Attacks On Cloud-Based Services

With the rapid and widespread adoption of work-from-home policy following the coronavirus pandemic, the necessity for cloud-based infrastructure and services increased dramatically. In 2021 and beyond, this cybersecurity trend will continue to grow as more and more businesses incorporate cloud-based processes.

While these cloud-based services offer a wide variety of benefits like increased efficiency, scalability, and lower operational costs, they are still vulnerable to hackers and cybercriminals. Businesses need to consider the security measures while moving their processes to the cloud and determining vulnerabilities that can cause them a huge loss.

3. Covid-19 Based Phishing Schemes

With the release of the coronavirus vaccine, people are on the continuous search for information regarding the vaccine. Unfortunately, such a hassle created various opportunities for hackers to tie phishing attacks with information regarding the coronavirus against the vaccine. However, some of the common examples of Covid-19 phishing scams include charitable requests to help the affected population, fake notices from healthcare organizations, providing safety information containing malicious links, etc. It is best to access updated information from government websites to prevent these phishing schemes.

4. Social Engineering Attacks

Social engineering attacks rely on human interaction, where cybercriminals psychologically manipulate individuals to disclose their personal or confidential information. Social engineering attacks are identified as one of the biggest cybersecurity challenges today. According to recent statistics, 98% of cyberattacks were related to social engineering. Besides, 21% of current or former employees have targeted individuals to gain financial advantage from their colleagues through social engineering.

For instance, a typical social engineering attack occurs when people think they are helping out someone in need. In order to counter the rising issues of social engineering, many businesses are now training their workforce to spot social engineering attacks so they can stay vigilant before engaging with bogus emails or offers.

5. Rise of AI-Based Attacks

Machine learning and AI are two technologies that businesses utilize to mitigate future challenges in various industries. It allows them to create automated threat detection systems by analyzing the collected information. While AI and machine learning have their benefits for threat detection, it isn’t a one-way road. Cybercriminals are taking full advantage of the two as well. They are automating their attacks and are resorting to model-stealing and data-poisoning strategies to extract valuable business information. Today, many hackers are even deploying machine learning algorithms to exercise their cybercriminal activities.

Despite the possibilities of AI-based attacks, businesses should not refrain from utilizing AI and machine learning. In 2020, companies with AI and machine learning fully deployed in their security systems saved around 3.58 million dollars in the malicious activities of data breaches. However, cybersecurity experts need to develop far more innovative ways to deal with the challenges.

Wrap Up

As these cybersecurity challenges continue to evolve, business leaders should seek new strategies and ways to defend against complex cyberattacks and secure their data. Similarly, users need to install antivirus software or back up their data to protect themselves from various cybercriminal acts. The safety measures can prevent them from huge data loss or paying hefty ransom amounts to cybercriminals.

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