Top Cyber Security Threats of 2021

Due to the current health crises, people’s lives revolve around the internet. In this cyberspace, we all live, work, and play. And while this realm improves in terms of efficiency, it also hosts a wealth of threats.

Like the real world, the internet is no stranger to threats. Here, cyber hacking and online attacks are prevalent. As a matter of fact, statistics suggest that millions of Americans have become victims of identity theft over the past few years. And in the coming years, cybercriminals will enjoy billions of monetary gains.

Now, cyberattacks don’t just happen to Americans. They choose no one. However, trends show that businesses are the favorite targets.

So, if you are running a business, brace yourself. In the coming year, there will be more cybersecurity threats to come. Be familiar with them so you and your team can plan ahead and prevent losses.

Before we delve into 2021’s security threats, what is cybersecurity in the first place? How has it evolved over the years?

Cybersecurity: A Brief Introduction

You may have heard of it many times before and people have varying definitions of it.

Simply said, cybersecurity is a device’s form of protection against theft and damage. Although it’s usually associated with online attacks, it’s actually like a digital barrier to electronic data, hardware, and software components.

Since computers and advanced devices were introduced, thieves have always been interested in stealing whatever data is stored in them. And even if it sounds impossible before the internet was born, it really did happen.

Today, cybersecurity is considered a part of our daily lives. And with everything being virtually connected by the internet, cybersecurity has become more important.

The only sad part is that data breaches still happen no matter how frequent cybersecurity measures are being updated. To date, it is uncommon to hear stories of online sellers and banks having their data stolen and systems breached.

Thankfully, companies are also improving their cybersecurity programs. For instance, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are always rolling out software updates to ensure their devices are protected against the most recent strains of threats. Governments, on the other hand, are investing in technologies that are designed to protect sensitive data and servers.

4 Common Types of Cyber Attack

4 Common Types of Cyber Attack

Now, what are these types of attacks that everyone is preparing for? To date, there are four known types of attack. These include malware, ransomware, social engineering, and phishing.

Cyber Attack #1: Malware

Malware is often referred to as the broadest type of cyberattack. It is simply a malicious form of program that is designed to wreak havoc on a system.

Cyber Attack #2: Ransomware

As the name suggests, ransomware is a type of attack that involves the cybercriminal encrypting the victim’s files and holding them for ransom.

Cyber Attack #3: Social Engineering

This type of cyber attack is quite different from the rest because it relies on social or human interaction. This occurs when a cybercriminal tries to trick the victims to give sensitive information by playing on their emotions.

Cyber Attack #4: Phishing

A form of social engineering attack, this is probably one of the most common cybersecurity attacks today. It occurs when a cybercriminal uses a fake identity to lure someone into giving information or visiting a site that contains malware.

4 Cyber Security Attacks to Watch Out for in 2021

After discussing the basics about cyberattacks, it’s high time to tackler the common threats that may affect businesses in the coming year. While some of these threats are already known, others are quite new. Even so, familiarizing them gives you better chances at protecting your business and assets. Here you go:

4 Cyber Security Attacks to Watch Out for in 2021
Illustration by Dmitrii Kharchenko via Dribbble

Cyber Security Threat #1: Phishing

In 2021, phishing will still be common because of the number of human interactions done online. Phishing was the most common type of cybercrime in the US in 2020, with incidents doubling to 241,324 from the previous year. A research conducted by Proofpoint also revealed that 75% of organizations all over the world have experienced a phishing attack in 2020, with 74% of them successfully targeting US businesses.

With instant messaging and electronic mail becoming more important in businesses, it’s safe to assume that phishing will not yet die down. Office employees and people exchange thousands of messages and emails every day. And at the end of the workday, minds become tired and people become prone to making wrong decisions.

Cybercriminals know this weakness, and they try to exploit this situation and bombard victims with email spams and fake messages. If one employee falls into the trap, a business’s integrity may then be destroyed.

Through phishing scams, attackers can gain access to sensitive accounts and private records. So, to protect your business, you must educate your employees about these odd emails and messages.

Here are some of the red flags to watch out for:

  • The email address has a fake domain name
  • Errors in the sending address
  • Urgency verbiage, including Urgent, Request, Important, Payment, and Attention
  • Requests to submit login details or update password
  • Lack of Security Certificates in the destination URL
  • Page redirects
  • Unfamiliar sender IP Addresses

Also, remind them to be cautious in clicking on suspicious links. Lastly, encourage them to install anti-phishing extensions to alert them whenever they visit unsafe sites.

Cyber Security Threat #2: PDF Scams

This is similar to phishing, but its goal is more on encouraging the victim to open or click on the attached PDF file. It involves using an email that states a security policy has been recently updated and that attached is the victim’s account statement. Once the PDF is clicked, it exposes the victim to a ransomware or malware entity.

But what makes this threat very effective? Well, these scams don’t ask you to click a link to provide information. Hackers know that people are already likely to open a PDF that they think is a press release or a statement balance.

To protect your business, be sure to train your employees to identify legit email addresses. For instance, if they receive bank statements, they should be able to determine whether they’re really from banks. You may also need to ensure that your network and devices are protected against viruses. That way, when anyone gets involved in a PDF scam, you will be alerted.

Cyber Security Threat #3: Ransomware and Malware

Ransomware is currently the most popular malware, with 2021 setting the world record for the largest ransomware payout at $40 million. Ransomware works by encrypting the victim’s files then asking for a ransom fee before releasing the decryption key. Some even threaten to make the files public if you don’t pay up.

Once malware and ransomware entities infect computer systems, your business may encounter problems, such as lost data, hijacked applications, or worse, frozen systems. Companies that experienced a ransomware attack had an average downtime of 21 days. You don’t want any of them to happen, right?

So, how do you protect your business from these threats? First, be sure all your applications, software, and hardware are up to date. Any outdated drivers, plugins, or PC repair software may be used as backdoors by these entities. Next, install anti-malware solutions on your devices to keep these threats at bay.

Finally, make it a habit to delete junk files as some malware and ransomware entities take the form of junk files to disguise and attack systems.

Cyber Security Threat #4: More Phishing Related to Pandemic

Immediately after the surge of COVID-19, there was a spike in opportunistic phishing attacks wherein hackers took advantage of the chaos to dupe targets into divulging sensitive information.

Threat actors have redesigned their regular online scams and phishing schemes. By distributing COVID-19 themed phishing emails, mostly impersonating government and health agencies, threat actors trick victims into giving out their personal data and downloading malicious content. Several countries reported a significant increase in COVID-19 themes for phishing and online scams since the outbreak.

Hackers and cyber attackers will still continue taking advantage of the current COVID-19 situation for their phishing campaigns. They continue to launch attacks that coincide with the event, aiming to get victims to click on malicious links or download attachments to get sensitive information.

To get your business protected from this threat, education is key. Again, you have to educate your employees not to click on anything odd or suspicious. Train them how to identify what’s real from what’s not. It’s as simple as that.

Wrapping Up

You may already have heard of these threats. Hopefully, you are now taking action to raise and improve the cybersecurity of your business. If not, don’t worry. It’s not yet too late. You may invest in security tools to keep your assets protected from the above threats.

Also, you may train your employees and get them familiar with malicious entities and teach them how to clean up junk files and folders. Most importantly, encourage them to read websites that educate and inform. As always, prevention is better than cure.

About the Author!

As a Journalist by profession, Jessica Bullet has extensive experience in writing about various topics under the sun, including technology, gadgets, travel, social media, and digital marketing. If she’s not writing articles for Software Tested, she’s either watching her favorite TV series or playing video games.

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