Many cybercriminal activities are hard to predict, but extrapolating this year’s attack trends to worsen next year is virtually prescient.

There may have been many buzz words in 2020, but have you heard of Fancy Bear? (It is not what you think.)

Seasoned cybercriminal groups like the abovenamed have been observed threatening financial organizations with Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, and this is just one of the many cybersecurity incidents that have taken place in an already eventful year.

What is next for the cybersecurity space in the 12 months ahead? Who are the new targets for attackers and what should businesses be looking out for? Here are CYFIRMA’s three predictions:

Digital risk exposure

You cannot defend what you cannot see: This adage is particularly true in the world of cybersecurity. Attack surfaces are better represented as doors and windows that intruders may use to gain entry into your home. With widespread remote-working, unprotected and porous home networks, unsecured web applications and cloud services, combined with poor cybersecurity maturity and awareness among teleworkers… have created millions of new attack surfaces almost overnight.

That is why digital risk exposure has direct impacts on business growth and viability and will be a priority for CISOs in 2021. Organizations whose data management strategies are not comprehensive will face an uphill task figuring out how their data is segmented and tiered, how it is transported, where it sits at rest and who has rights to access which data. The entire journey of how data flows in and out of the organization into employees, suppliers, partners, and clients presents many potential attack points for hackers.

As such, expect to see accelerated adoption of cloud-based and SaaS services, which will then result in a heavier reliance on digital platforms for day-to-day functions. This represents added digital risk as attack surfaces and vectors continue to increase with remote- and hybrid-work environments. Business leaders must now shift their mindset to look at risk and governance from a ‘digital-first’ perspective.

Financial services preferred

For financially-motivated threat actors, the financial sector has always been a preferred target. This year’s widespread banking trojans, cryptocurrency hacks, and other attacks designed to steal payment card details will continue to be a security consideration throughout 2021.

Seasoned cybercriminal groups have been threatening financial organizations with DDoS attacks unless their ransoms are paid. Specialized tools like the EVILNUM malware: this is an advanced toolset and infrastructure that combines custom malware with tools sourced from malware-as-a-service (MaaS) providers. EVILNUM has greatly enhanced a malware’s ability to evade detection, download files, harvest tracking cookies, and run arbitrary commands.

Phishing attacks targeting WFH personnel will continue to increase. Another trend involves frequent leaks of vast quantities of user credentials on the dark web to spur increases in credential stuffing attacks and create ‘noise’ to keep cyberdefenders busy.

Furthermore, with new tech such as 5G picking up pace, the sophistication of attacks risking data protection will be enhanced in 2021 and beyond. Financial institutions will then need to align cybersecurity to business objectives through prudent boardroom representation.

Every new market entry, adoption of new technology and innovation should have cybersecurity assessment done, which will lead to an increased adoption of cybersecurity awareness within the workforce.

Alert to smart transport, logistics

These two industries faced a new wave of cyberattacks in 2020 due to their surging digitalization to meet pandemic needs. In the past year, we saw many instances of sensor and IoT vulnerabilities and exploitations.

An increasing number of cyberattacks have also been directed at public transit systems, or mass transportation solutions. The attackers are intent on causing interruptions that would hold a wider social impact, or simply for financial gains where ransomware attacks are concerned.

Additionally, security specialists have recognized the potential for cyberattacks against nascent intelligent transport systems infrastructures. As street-legal autonomous vehicles become a reality, cybercriminals will continue to refine their hacking techniques as well. Attacks on connected cars/trucks could allow perpetrators to seize control of vehicle functions, steal data, or both.

The rise of attacks in these industries is inevitable, as more controls are being digitized and connected across systems as a norm.

Organizations will need to implement robust security protocols and encryption, including authentication or access credentials configurations, to secure critical information stored in databases/servers. Most importantly, businesses will need to embrace cyberthreat intelligence to move from event-driven reactive cybersecurity to intelligence-driven predictive cybersecurity, aimed at strengthening their cyber posture management in 2021.