Top 5 Cybersecurity Trends So Far This Year

Cybersecurity trends 2021

We are all too aware that the cybersecurity landscape is changing and will continue to change as the technology we use every day continues to adapt, develop, and alter our daily lives.

Put very simply, this trend is clear when you compare your 2010 Honda Civic to the latest release from Tesla; technology is embedded into every corner of our lives and it now even governs your driver safety.

Because of this, the drive to protect business and individuals from threat actors has never been more important. With an ever-shifting set of cybersecurity goalposts becomes the need to understand, adapt and overcome whatever threats may come your way.

As such in this article I am going to take you through five trends we are seeing when looking a cybersecurity and the defence of your IT infrastructure.

1. The Expanding Cyber-Attack Surface

According to cybersecurity ventures, the world will store 200 zettabytes of data by 2025. This data is coming from thousands upon thousands of different sources and a considerable amount of the data is now being driven by IOT and smart technologies.

As I mentioned in my introduction, think of all the data that every Tesla on the road today is generating, the pure volume of telemetry data, decisions, battery health and all the other statistics these mobile computers are generating is staggering. Now think about your smart home, with fridges that can be remotely controlled, lighting, cooling, heating and even garage doors that can triggered from anywhere across the globe, then add into the mix home security systems link Ring Doorbell. All of this sits outside the realm of what for many would have previously considered data that needed to be secured. However, it is easy to see how data like the time you leave your house, the speed you drive and direction you travel, could be of value to a threat actor and even worse could be data they leverage against you.

This however is just to the point, the fact that as businesses are having to daily adjust the scope of what is and is not part of the business attack surface, this leaves the threat actors room to move and the gaps they need to turn your secure system into Swiss cheese.

5 years ago, CCTV may or may not have been the responsibility of the IT department. Today, with digital cloud driven solutions, this firmly sits within a business IT attack surface and is a clear technological risk.

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Similarly, take the smart card reader that opens your office doors and your car parking barrier. This is a business attack surface which in the traditional IT model we would have simply been able to ignore. This is no longer the case. It sits on the list which will continue to grow of new areas where CISO, cyber security experts and IT teams in general need to protect.

This trend will of course continue. As IT professionals we must adjust our

security posture and consider how this effects the technologies we use to protect our data and our systems.

There is by no means a golden bullet but there are key markers for success in this area.

 

2. Ransomware as a Cyber Weapon of Choice

Ransomware has been around for almost two decades and has grown in popularity because it can more easily bring financial rewards to hackers. It is estimated that there are now 124 separate families of ransomware and hackers have become very adept at hiding malicious code.

The reason is that ransomware became a weapon of choice for hackers in the last 18 months was drive by the COVID-19 pandemic. This instantly altered a digital landscape that for many businesses had been slowly changing. In fact, most were stuck to the traditional walled garden of onsite infrastructure and controlled working environments. Now, with the transformation of so many companies and how we operate as a mostly digital, this creates more targets for extortion. According to a research, ransomware increased by 435% in 2020 as compared with 2019.

In 202, the estimated cost of ransomware was £14.5 billion – a rise from £8 billion in 2019 and £5 billion in 2018. That trend will continue to grow.

The likely impact for the near-term future is that there will be more ransomware attacks against institutions and corporations who are less cyber secure and cannot afford to have operations impeded. This includes health care, local governments, and educational institutions. For these sectors the need to adapt and overcome the finical challenges of protecting their businesses has never been more paramount.

 

3. Increase in adoption of cloud services

Cloud vulnerability continues to be one of the biggest cyber security industry trends. Again, the rapid and widespread adoption of remote working following the pandemic increased the necessity for cloud-based services and infrastructure drastically, with huge security implications for organisations. For many, these implications where not understood or ignored as the business threw themselves into a cloud strategy in sheer panic in 2020.

work from homeDon’t get me wrong, cloud services have become essential and offer a range of benefits – scalability, efficiency, and cost savings – but they are also a prime target for attackers.

Misconfigured cloud settings are a significant cause of data breaches and unauthorised access, insecure interfaces, and account hijacking. All of these are avoidable but for many businesses they simply don’t know the vulnerabilities are there. During our webinar series, I often talk about the shared responsibility model. It is key to keeping the door closed to attack but is greatly misunderstood or even ignored by a lot of businesses.

 

4. Social engineering attacks getting smarter

Social engineering attacks, like phishing, are by no means new threats but have become more troubling amid the widespread remote workforce of the last 18 months. Attackers target individuals connecting to their employer’s network from home because they make easier targets. The attack looks to exploit the weak link in most businesses’ security posture, the end user.

As well as traditional phishing attacks on employees, there has also been an uptick in whaling attacks targeting executive organisational leadership. This trend sees CEO, CFO and other business managers being impersonated to other employees or customers to gain financial details or gain credentials.

SMS phishing – sometimes known as ‘smishing’ – is also gaining prominence, thanks to the popularity of messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Slack, Skype, Signal, WeChat, and others. Attackers use these platforms to try to trick users into downloading malware onto their phones, which for many are now heavily linked to the corporate network be that via email or shared file access. For many businesses, MDM or MAM are technologies they still haven’t invested in.

Organisations are increasing their protection against phishing, but criminals are always looking for new ways to stay ahead. This includes sophisticated phishing kits which target victims differently depending on their location. To stay ahead of these trends, businesses need to ensure their staff understand and can act as the human firewall against these attacks – social engineering is not something that technology alone can protect your business from.

 

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5. The Future, Privacy-enhancing computation techniques.

To change pace slightly now and look less at the trends around attack vectors and how the threat actors are getting in and more around how the cyber security industry is helping us all fight back.

Privacy-enhancing computation (PEC) techniques are emerging that protect data while it’s being used — as opposed to while it’s at rest or in motion.

This marks a dramatic shift in the level of protection we can leverage onto data and how we can continue to work to lock out the threat actors from data at all stages of its life cycle. This technology will also enable secure data processing, sharing, cross-border transfers and analytics, even in untrusted environments.

This technology is rapidly transforming from academic research to real projects delivering real value, enabling new forms of computing, and sharing with reduced risk of data breaches.

I would expect to see these products in your security portfolio in the next 12 months.

 

With the landscape continuing to move beneath our feet daily, as IT professionals, we need to stay ahead of the trends and ensure that we are looking at what threats are just over the horizon.

No IT team can afford to rest on their laurels as the successes of yesterday will not protect you from the threats of tomorrow.

If any of this is of concern to you, whether you are an IT professional, a business leader or simply have cybersecurity fears, please reach out to me or one of my team and we will be more than happy to assess your situation. We are in this war together, and we can’t let the bad guys win!

email: architecture@planet-it.net

call: 01235 433900

or connect with me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/delljames/

 

 

 

What is Conditional Access, and why is it an essential part of your security posture?

Conditional Access

By now, you should be aware that the modern digital landscape is full of threat actors. That are always looking for any opportunity to find a weakness in a business’s security posture and then leverage this to gain unauthorised access to data for malicious reasons.

To protect against these attacks, we often look at antivirus and anti-ransomware technology and products like MFA or Two-factor authentication. The truth is that MFA is part of much larger protection that can be afforded a system through an approach known as Conditional Access.

How does Conditional Access work?

Conditional Access (CA) is the process of defining entry vectors and criteria; in its most simplistic form, consider CA to be a door that only opens if you are wearing the right clothes, have arrived in the right vehicle, and are holding your ID. In real terms, CA allows a business to define controls around what can be accessed by who, from where and under what circumstances.

I feel that conditional access is an underutilised part of any defence arsenal. This is partly due to a lack of understanding in the IT community about the technology and a misconception about its limitations. These beliefs and options come from a legacy of Software as a Service (SaaS) and on-premises infrastructure being integrated minimally, however with modern SaaS, IaaS, PaaS and on-prem working in a heavily integrated way. Conditional Access allows you to take advantage of the proper protection that can be afforded a system without comprise.

Is it widely used?

All the major SaaS, IaaS and PaaS vendors support conditional access, and an optimum way to deploy the technology is as such.

  • Limit access to login to Geo Locations that are trusted and used by the business
  • Allow internal networks or trusted networks to have fast passed authentication
  • Only allow data access from trusted and complaint enrolled devices
  • Require MFA in any location that is not inside a trusted network
  • Remove support for legacy authentication methods
  • Deploy true Single Sign-on across all platforms and devices
  • Limit access to the data and services a user needs based on the roles of that user
  • Only allow devices that have Antivirus and Anti-ransomware installed and up to date
  • Only enable devices that have the latest operating system updates
  • Integrate all systems into a single platform, use Conditional Access and MFA to protect the whole network, not just cloud services.

By undertaking this approach, you can reduce the attached surface of your infrastructure and protect data while not limiting your staff’s functionality by placing unwanted security barriers in place.

The diagram below shows how the conditional access approach works.

Conditional Access Explained

Conditional Access

Do you think your business could benefit from the technologies of conditional access? Do you want to know more? Then please reach out to a member of the Architecture team at Planet IT via architecture@planet-it.net or call 01235 433900, and we can talk to you about the options available that work with your more comprehensive technologies.

Quick Thoughts – Information Security – WhatsApp Data Sharing 2021

There are lots of social media commentary this week around the changes in the WhatsApp privacy policy.

First of all yes this privacy policy is scary and moves WhatsApp ever closer to Facebook in terms of their approach to who has the right to user data and what its worth to the business. However should you worry about it as a U.K or EU citizen? No. And the reason for that is simple, WhatsApp has to adhere to the guidance as laid out in the articles which form GDPR, therefore they cannot use the data or share this data with it’s parent company Facebook for the purposes of remarketing as it would be outside the fair use of the data.

 

That said, Facebook are looking to move Facebook access for UK users away from their Facebook Ireland entity to being governed by Facebook Inc. This would therefore change their obligations as your account would sit outside of the GDPR region. Furthermore, following the U.K. leaving the EU they would be able to do this and therefore WhatsApp would fall under the privacy policy of the U.S.

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So in short, don’t panic right now. There is no need to leave WhatsApp or not accept the terms in February. However, when Facebook moves the U.K. to be governed and controlled by the U.S., then if you want your data from being used for a number of questionable activities you need to leave and delete your Facebook account and do the same for WhatsApp.

I hope this quick thought helped you demystify the current situation.

If you want to talk to me about information security and data protection then please call 01235 433900 or you can reach out to me via DM or at james.dell@planet-it.net.

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