Report Predicts More Cyber-attacks in 2021

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By Emma Okonji

The recent cyber security report released by Check Point Software Technologies Limited, a provider of cyber-security solutions, has predicted more COVID-19 related attacks, cyber wars and new threats to 5G and the Internet of Things (IoTs) in 2021.

The Check Point cyber-security predictions detailed the key security challenges that organizations will face over the next year.

The report stated that the effects of the changes introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic would continue to be a key focus for organisations’ IT and security teams.

According to the report, 81 per cent of enterprises have adopted mass remote working for their employees, with 74 per cent planning to enable it permanently. The report also warned of emerging ransomware and botnet threats, and the challenges of securing new 5G networks and the explosion in connected devices it will power.

Analysing the threats, Check Point’s Regional Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Pankaj Bhula, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic derailed business-as-usual for virtually every organisation, forcing them to set aside their existing business and strategic plans, and quickly pivot to delivering secure remote connectivity at massive scale for their workforces. Security teams also had to deal with escalating threats to their new cloud deployments, as hackers sought to take advantage of the pandemic’s disruption.

71 per cent of security professionals reported an increase in cyber-threats since lockdowns started.

“One of the few predictable things about cyber-security is that threat actors will always seek to take advantage of major events or changes – such as COVID-19, or the introduction of 5G – for their own gain. To stay ahead of threats, organisations must be proactive and leave no part of their attack surface unprotected or unmonitored, or they risk becoming the next victim of sophisticated targeted attacks.”

Check Point’s cyber-security predictions for 2021, focused on three categories: COVID-19 related developments; Malware, privacy and cyber-conflicts; and Emerging 5G and IoT platforms.

For the pandemic-related developments, the report explained that in 2021, Covid-19 would still be impacting on people’s lives, businesses and societies, and that those impacts would change as the year progresses. Check Point therefore advised organisations to be ready for a series of ‘next normal’ as we respond to those changes.

“Following the rush to remote working, organisations need to better secure their new distributed networks and cloud deployments to keep their applications and data protected. This means enforcing and automating threat prevention at all points of the network – from employees’ mobiles and endpoints, to IoT devices, to clouds – to stop advanced attacks spreading rapidly across organisations, and exploiting weaknesses to breach sensitive data. Automating prevention will be critical, as 78 per cent of organisations say they have a cyber-skills shortage,” the report stated.

For malware, privacy, and cyber-war, the report predicted that cyber-attacks would continue to grow because hackers have developed many malware families into botnets, to build armies of infected computers with which to launch attacks. It said cyber-attacks by nation states would continue to grow, for espionage or to influence events in other countries. Check Point cited Microsoft’s earlier report, which stated that 89 per cent of nation-state hacking incidents over the past year were launched by threat actors from just three countries.

For the new 5G and IoT platforms, the Check Point cyber-security report said the totally connected, high-speed world promised by 5G, would also give hackers opportunities to launch attacks and cause disruption by targeting that connectivity.

As 5G networks are rolled out, the numbers of connected IoT devices will massively expand – massively increasing networks’ vulnerability to large scale, and multi-vector cyber-attacks. IoT devices and their connections to networks and clouds, are still a weak link in security, the report noted.