Throughout 2021, cybercriminals found new ways to infiltrate the data systems of telecommunications companies, medical networks, and even law enforcement agencies.
Times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, provide the perfect environment for unscrupulous individuals who wish to take advantage of disorder and upheaval for financial gain. The healthcare sector has been particularly vulnerable, costing providers more than $20 billion in ransoms, lost revenue, and lawsuits in 2020 alone. That same year, 600 clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare providers were targeted in 92 ransomware attacks.
Similarly, 2021 saw several high-profile attacks on organizations around the world, with just six ransomware groups responsible for a staggering 292 attacks against organizations, accumulating more than $45 million in ransom money. In late April 2021, a breach of the Colonial Pipeline disrupted gas supplies across the American East Coast, creating panic and chaos.
As 2021 draws to a close, experts share seven rising cybersecurity threats predicted to soar in popularity among criminal groups in the year to come.
- Increased Implementation of AI
AI plays a rapidly evolving role in virtually every aspect of our daily lives. Machine learning has paved the way for impressive advancements in cybersecurity, while AI has been integral to building automated security systems, as well as face detection, natural language processing, and automatic threat detection.
Just as cybersecurity companies use AI to enhance their products and services, cybercriminals use it to help them develop increasingly sophisticated attacks. AI has been used by hackers to develop smart malware and attacks capable of bypassing the latest security protocols.
- Mobile Hacking
Research indicates that 2019 saw a 50 percent increase in mobile malware and hacking attacks. Mobile malware may not have reached the same scale as traditional desktop malware, but it is on the rise, particularly on the Android platform.
Mobile devices are particularly enticing for state-sponsored cyber teams due to device capabilities and the information stored on them. When information about threats is leaked, like the recent Stuxnet computer worm, cybercriminals learn how to emulate the cyber teams’ techniques and formulate more and more sophisticated attacks.
3. Teleworking Attacks
As working from home becomes the new norm for many businesses worldwide, the surge in employees working remotely has created considerable opportunities for hackers. Remote desktop software such as Netop, TeamViewer, and Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol have all revealed major security vulnerabilities in testing.
Brute-force attacks, where hackers guess remote account passwords, are on the rise. Cybercriminals are also employing tactics such as phishing and similar scams, targeting business email accounts.
According to the FBI, these sorts of scams caused more than $1.8 billion in business losses in 2020 alone. The onus is on employers to ensure they arm remote workers with effective cybersecurity protection as well as the training they need to identify and deal with cyber threats.
- IoT Vulnerabilities
In an era with increasingly more devices connecting to the Internet, router security is all-important. In 2019 3 out of 4 IoT attacks occurred via infected routers.
IoT devices are inherently vulnerable to attack. Every new device you add to your home or work network increases risk. From smart appliances you control with your mobile phone to baby monitors, almost no device is safe from hijacking and DoS attacks. The key to protecting your home or workspace from hackers lies in encrypting your Internet connection and masking your IP address to deter this type of attack.
5. Weaponizing Deepfake Technology
A portmanteau of “deep learning” and “fake,” deepfakes are synthetic media in which an existing video or image is replaced with someone else’s likeness. Leveraging powerful AI and machine learning techniques, deepfake technology generates or manipulates visual or audio content with the ultimate objective of deceiving the viewer.
Cybersecurity specialists predict that cybercriminals will increasingly rely on this technique to manipulate stock prices, steal money, and influence people’s opinions via social media.
- Social Engineering Threats
Not all data breaches, leaks, and corporate hacks are perpetrated by sophisticated hackers using advanced technical approaches. In fact, many arise as the result of simple social engineering threats. Cybercriminals manipulate their victim’s trust to gain access to information, using human psychology rather than technological know-how to achieve their goals.
7. Automotive Hacking
Modern cars come with a plethora of automated software seamlessly linked by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology, which, unfortunately, renders them vulnerable to hacking. Experts predict that instances of criminals gaining control of vehicles through hacking will rise in years to come as the use of automated vehicles increases. To avoid this scenario, lawmakers are calling for increasingly stringent cybersecurity measures.